Flashback time! Cue your special effect of choice: a slow fade, a tasteful dissolve, or that one where the present-day picture gets all wavy and then turns into the past. There’s probably a name for that, but “that one where the present-day picture gets all wavy and then turns into the past” is a bit much to Google, so let’s just go with it as is.
We now learn that the Mr. Wentworth who was curate of Monkford (and therefore beneath the notice of Sir Walter Elliot) not only had a sister, who is, by great coincidence, now going to be the mistress of Kellynch-hall (at least for a while, anyway); he also had a brother, a “remarkably fine young man, with a great deal of intelligence, spirit and brilliancy” who came to live with him for a few months during a break in his naval duties. And this stay occurred at just the time when a young Anne Elliot had reached her peak of prettiness, bloom, and sweetness (though apparently a rather low-scaled peak). “Half the sum of attraction, on either side, might have been enough,” Austen tells us, “for he had nothing to do, and she had hardly any body to love;” but as it turns out it was well more than half the sum; in fact, the attraction in question pretty much broke the bank. The two young people fell headlong in love.
Alas, as is often the case of young people headlong in love, the world comes along to bite them in the ass.
Sir Walter, on being applied to, without actually withholding his consent, or saying it should never be, gave it all the negative of great astonishment, great coldness, great silence, and a professed resolution of doing nothing [financially] for his daughter. He thought it a very degrading alliance; and Lady Russell, though with more tempered and pardonable pride, received it as a most unfortunate one.
The principal difference between the two objections is that Sir Walter is disgusted by the idea that this is the best Anne could do, with all her advantages of birth and breeding, and wants to distance himself from the shame of it; while Lady Russell thinks that Anne could in fact do quite a bit better, precisely because of her birth and breeding, than to throw herself away at nineteen to some dude out of nowhere “who had nothing but himself to recommend him, and no hopes of attaining affluence, but in the chances of a most uncertain profession”.
Never mind that this Captain Wentworth has so much unrestrained self-esteem that the law of gravity can barely tether him to terra firma. He “was confident that he should soon be rich;—full of life and ardour, he knew that he should soon have a ship, and soon be on a station that would lead to every thing he wanted. He had always been lucky; he knew he should be so still.” Lady Russell is all yeah, yeah, talk to the hand. To her he’s just blue-skying up her petticoats, and frankly, in this particular case I have to take her side (don’t look for a repeat; Lady R. is far from my fave, as I think is clear by now). Almost every young buck in his early twenties is one-hundred-and-ten percent certain he’s going to be master of all time and space by the time he’s thirty. I sure as hell was. And those of us who have got past that stage—bloodied and scraped by the hard edges of reality—have learned to be a tad sanguine about the young folks coming up behind us who insist that they’re going to be different.
Still, everyone is entitled to make his own mistakes—and is usually the better for it. But Anne isn’t to be allowed that luxury; Lady Buttinsky unloads her reservations on her, and “could not, with such steadiness of opinion, and such tenderness of manner, be continually advising her in vain.” Translation: Lady Russell will just. not. shut. up. And given Anne’s innate humility, the result is inevitable. “She was persuaded to believe the engagement a wrong thing—indiscreet, improper, hardly capable of success, and not deserving it.” Even worse, Lady Russell convinces Anne it would be wrong for him; and this is the real deal-breaker. Anne, being a stand-up kid, might be willing to risk her own happiness—but not his.
He doesn’t quite see it that way, of course, and their final meeting is just a tad acrimonious. He’s “totally unconvinced and unbending,” and feels himself “ill-used by so forced a relinquishment.—He had left the country in consequence.” Nice job, Lady Russell. What’s your next trick? You saw Anne in half?
Now it’s seven years later, and this romance—which itself only lasted a few months from beginning to end—ought by now to be no more than a blip in Anne’s life. Except that everything has turned out exactly the opposite from the way Lady Russell expected it to. Anne suffered an “early loss of bloom and spirits” over Captain Wentworth’s departure, which didn’t exactly inspire any more deserving young swains to come a-callin’; and the one proposal she did get, she turned down.
She had been solicited, when about two-and-twenty- to change her name, by the young man, who had not long afterwards found a more willing mind in her younger sister; and Lady Russell had lamented her refusal; for Charles Musgrove was the eldest son of a man, whose landed property and general importance, were second in that country, only to Sir Walter’s, and of good character and appearance.
But “good character and appearance” aren’t exactly high recommendations after the high-octane charisma of Captain Wentworth. Lady Russell, “as satisfied as ever with her own discretion, never wished the past undone,” but she’s beginning to have little worrying fits (possibly the cause of those crow’s feet that so horrify Sir Walter) about anyone ever coming along to tempt Anne into “a state for which she held her to be peculiarly fitted by her warm affections and domestic habits.”
And Anne feels pretty much the same. At twenty-seven, she “thought very differently from what he had been made to think at nineteen.”
She did not blame Lady Russell, she did not blame herself for having been guided by her; but she felt that were any young person, in similar circumstances, to apply to her for counsel, they would never receive any of such certain immediate wretchedness, such uncertain future good.
This is pretty heartbreaking stuff. And it’s about to get worse, as we learn that—whaddaya know—brash, boastful young Captain Wentworth was absolutely bang-on about his prospects. “All his sanguine expectations, all his confidence, had been justified. His genius and ardour had seemed to foresee and to command his prosperous path.” The guy’s gone out and made himself a fortune, exactly as he told Anne he would.
And Anne knows it, too. She follows the navy lists—the Regency equivalent of the sports pages—so she’s perfectly (shall we say, achingly) aware of his triumphs, and is certain that he’s rich; though, “in favour of his constancy, she had no reason to believe him married.”
How eloquent could Anne Elliot have been,—how eloquent, at least, were her wishes on the side of early warm attachment, and a cheerful confidence in futurity, against that over-anxious caution which seems to insult exertion and distrust Providence!—She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older—the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning.
What a freaking gorgeous, and devastating, bit of prose there. And it really does set up Anne’s dilemma for us. She’s had to learn to live with regret—to accept that she made a decision based on what other people wanted for her, rather than what she wanted for herself—only to learn that it was emphatically, spectacularly, cataclysmically the wrong decision. And rather than be left in peace to repine and sigh and fade ever farther in the background, her bad decision is chasing her down like a coyote after a one-legged rabbit. Captain Wentworth’s bloody brother-in-law has rented her own house out from under her, and Captain Wentworth himself can’t be far behind.
In hardening her nerves against that business, Anne, we’re told, is aided “by that perfect indifference and apparent unconsciousness, among the only three of her own friends in the secret of the past, which seemed almost to deny any recollection of it.” Meaning that her father, her sister Elizabeth, and Lady Russell say exactly zip-zero-zilch about anything to do with the matter. They may as well have—they very possibly have—forgotten all about it. The name “Captain Wentworth” never seems to so much as flit across any of their minds. Well…possibly Lady Russell’s. But you gotta think she’s maybe not in such a rush to bring the matter up, given…well, given everything, basically. I mean, counselors to kings and popes have had their heads cut off for advice that wasn’t half as bad as Lady R’s.
So the knowledge of Anne’s current anxiety is at least limited to a trio of people, none of whom is inclined to give her any strange or discomfiting looks (or look at her at all, much). So she’s spared that mortification.
Certainly nobody gives her any looks when Admiral Croft finally arrives to check the place out; he’s the kind of outsize personality who commands the attention of every pair of eyes in the room. He oozes confidence and masculinity and bluff good humor, so much so that even Sir Walter is won over; he declares the Admiral “to be the best-looking sailor he had ever met with, and went so far as to say, that, if his own man might have had the arranging of his hair, he should not be ashamed of being seen with him any where”. This rather qualified admiration is most generously returned, as the Admiral later tells his wife, “The baronet will never set the Thames on fire, but there seems no harm in him”. Somebody gets these guys a room.
So it’s all set: the Crofts are to move in at Michaelmas, with the Elliots skedaddling to Bath the month before. But…Lady Russell wants Anne to stay behind, with her, until Christmas, at which time they can travel up to Bath together. Anne isn’t too keen on the idea. She’s in no hurry to leave the country, true, and less so to arrive at Bath (a place she doesn’t even like), but she still thinks it would be “most right, and most wise, and therefore, must involve least suffering, to go with the others.”
Now, I love Anne. Swear to God. Won’t hear a word said against her. But at about this point I just want to take her by her prim little shoulders and give her a good gin-martini shake, and say, “Anne. Sweetheart. The others?...They could stand a little suffering.”
As it happens, the issue becomes moot when Anne receives a summons from her other sister, Mary, to come and look after her. “Mary, often a little unwell, and always thinking a great deal of her own complaints”, was “always in the habit of claiming Anne when any thing was the matter”. So it’s decided: Anne will go neither to Bath, nor to Lady Russell’s, but to the delightfully named Uppercross Cottage, where her sister lives with her husband and children.
Lady Russell is happy that she’ll be able to take Anne to Bath at Christmas, after all. But uh-oh, that happiness is short-lived, because guess what.
…Mrs. Clay [was] engaged to go to Bath with Sir Walter and Elizabeth, as a most important and valuable assistant to the latter in all the business before her. Lady Russell was extremely sorry that such a measure should have been resorted to at all—wondered, grieved, and feared—and the affront it contained to Anne, in Mrs. Clay’s being of so much use, while Anne could be of none, was a very sore aggravation.
Anne herself shrugs off the insult. Hey, the way her life’s gone, if she hasn’t been locked out all night in the snow, or had Sir Walter’s hounds set after her for sport, that’s a good day. But she’s still aware—and somehow still manages to care—that the presence of a hot-blooded widower in her father’s risks exposing the family to salacious gossip…and even worse, of that gossip having some actual foundation.
She did not imagine that her father had at present an idea of the kind. Mrs. Clay had freckles, and a projecting tooth, and a clumsy wrist, which he was continually making severe remarks upon, in her absence; but she was young, and certainly altogether well-looking, and possessed, in an acute mind and assiduous pleasing manners, infinitely more dangerous attractions than any merely personal might have been.
Anne’s so worried about the possible repercussions that she makes a valiant attempt to warn Elizabeth about it. Elizabeth basically laughs at her—the idea of Sir Walter falling for a dame with freckles and a harpoon tooth! Are you high?—then she swings a lever that opens a trap door beneath Anne, of which there is one in every room in Kellynch-hall.
As Anne climbs back up to ground level, she’s still glad she spoke up—glad she cleared herself of any possible complicity in what shenanigans might now ensue, and also “not absolutely hopeless of doing good. Elizabeth, though resenting the suspicion, might yet be made observant by it.” Because yeah, Elizabeth is so observant of everything that isn’t one-hundred percent connected with Being Elizabeth.
Then the day comes when the Elliot party packs off to Bath, and Anne, left behind “in a sort of desolate tranquility,” shuffles off to the estate’s Lodge, which reduction in her estate we might feel sorry for if said Lodge weren’t bigger and more lavishly appointed than any house you or I will ever live in, unless we hop in a time machine and go back and co-found Microsoft.
But she doesn’t stay at the Lodge for long; she wants to be well out of the way before Admiral and Mrs. Croft arrive. So after a week she finally sets out to see her sister at Uppercross—a “moderate-sized village, which a few years back had been completely in the old English style”, but which now boasts a few renovated houses that are flashier than the squire’s mansion, including the Cottage, “with its viranda, French windows, and other prettinesses”. I can’t tell whether Austen’s having a sly snark at Regency-era yuppification here, or not. I’m gonna go with yes, because it works so well as sly snark.
“Uppercross” always strikes me as a mash-up of “uppercut” and “double-cross,” so I invariably go into these chapters expecting some high comedy. And we get some right off the bat, as Anne arrives to find her sister Mary alone; “but being alone, her being unwell and out of spirits, was almost a matter of course.”
Mary’s a great comic creation, but a very complex one; she’s always complaining of being sick, but the real trouble with her is that “she had no resources for solitude; and inheriting a considerable share of the Elliot self-importance, was very prone to add to every other distress that of fancying herself neglected and ill-used.” Basically, she drives people away by being too shrill and demanding; then when they’re all gone she gets lonely. Which she dresses up as being “unwell.” Which she blames on other people, so they’re even less likely to want to spend time with her. It’s a dizzying and very funny (and very sad) little caucus race she runs all by herself.
Anne gets a face-full of Mary-ness when she enters. From where she languishes on the couch, Mary says, “So you are come at last! I began to think I should never see you. I am so ill I can hardly speak. I have not seen a creature the whole morning.” So, immediately, Anne is roped into the general blame. This bitch is good. I mean, her pathology is bad, but she’s so good at it.
And yet she’s oblivious to her own contradictions. When Anne asks where Mary’s husband is, she says, “Oh! Charles is out shooting. I have not seen him since seven o’clock. He would go, though I told him how ill I was. He said he should not stay out long; but he has never come back, and now it is almost one.” I got news for you, chiquita. He’s hiding.
And then there’s this, about Mary’s in-laws up at the Great House:
“I can give you no account of them. I have not seen one of them to-day, except Mr. Musgrove, who just stopped and spoke through the window, but without getting off his horse; and though I told him how ill I was, not one of them have been near me. It did not happen to suit the Miss Musgroves, I suppose, and they never put themselves out of their way.”
“You will see them yet, perhaps, before the morning is gone. It is early.”
“I never want them, I assure you. They talk and laugh a great deal too much for me. Oh! Anne, I am so very unwell!”
Love that detail of Mary’s father-in-law only paying his respects through a window, and in saddle at that, so he can bolt the hell outta there the very nanosecond politeness allows.
But from Mary’s attitude towards her sisters-in-law (“They never come and see me”/“I never want to see them”) it’s pretty clear that she’s a woman who is flat-out incapable of being pleased. What she wants is attention and admiration, yet she behaves in a way that makes both impossible; but it’s just as well, because even if she were to get any, it would never be enough…she’d just keep wailing for more.
As witness now, when she berates Anne for not having come sooner. Anne explains that she couldn’t possibly have, she had too much to do at Kellynch. “Dear me!” Mary says, “what can you possibly have to do?” And when Anne—possibly sitting on her hands to keep from taking a swing at her sister—lists all the various duties and tasks she had to carry out before the Crofts arrived, Mary—who’s almost certainly only half-listened, and may even have dozed off for a second near the middle, responds, “Oh! well…But you have never asked me one word about our dinner at the Pooles yesterday.”
Yep, she’s that kinda gal. And worse. Because when Anne does ask how the dinner at the Pooles was, Mary’s reply: “Nothing remarkable.”
For most of us, such behavior would pretty much guarantee that this visit to Mary would be our first, last, and only, and possibly on our way out the door we’d shoot a flaming arrow into the house for good measure, and sow the fields around it with salt.
But Anne, whose superpowers are patience and “forced cheerfulness,” sticks it out, giving Mary exactly what she wants: a living human being who will sit quietly and hang on her every word. So within the space of twenty minutes the woman who was previously Oh! so very unwell! is amazingly up on her feet, peering out the windows, primping the flower arrangements, and for all we know dropping down for fifty push-ups and then lifting a writing-desk over her head.
Witnessing Mary’s restored energy, Anne suggests they take a walk up to the Great House. At first Mary isn’t keen; her in-laws should pay a call on Anne first, she insists. “They ought to feel what is due to you as my sister.” But Anne convinces her to ignore ceremony this once, and off they go.
Which is a wonderful victory for the novel, because it gets us out of Mary’s claustrophobic, strangulated little prison cell (I’m talking about her head, not her house) and into the big, rambunctious, overstuffed, underregulated life of the senior Musgroves and their daughters. It’s basically the Regency version of one of those madcap scenes you find in early comedy films, where the camera passes through a front door to find one kid playing a piano, another kid training the dog, pop rehearsing a speech, mom vacuuming, and little junior in a corner preparing to dynamite the roof off the whole lot of them. Austen, in an uncharacteristic flight of fancy, gives us a brief dose of disapproval from the unlikeliest source imaginable:
Oh! could the originals of the portraits against the wainscot, could the gentlemen in brown velvet and the ladies in blue satin have seen what was going on, have been conscious of such an overthrow of all order and neatness! The portraits themselves seemed to be staring in astonishment.
However, we’ve learned by now that Austen prefers merry chaos to barren order. And so we’re not surprised to find that Mr. and Mrs. Musgrove are jovial, friendly types—sweethearts, really; you want to sit in their laps and pinch their fat cheeks—and that the two daughters, Henrietta and Louisa (nineteen and twenty, respectively), while a tad wild, are “fashionable, happy, and merry.” They’re also a couple of lookers, and clearly adored by their parents…a pair of anti-Annes, in pretty much every respect. Despite which our gal can manage to view them with complete equanimity.
Anne always contemplated them as some of the happiest creatures of her acquaintance; but still, saved as we all are by some comfortable feeling of superiority from wishing for the possibility of exchange, she would not have given up her own more elegant and cultivated mind for all their enjoyments; and envied them nothing but that seemingly perfect good understanding and agreement together, that good-humored mutual affection, of which she had known so little with either of her sisters.
Okay…almost complete equanimity.
The house, for all its disorder and confusion, is a tonic to Anne, who can’t help “wishing that the other Elliots could have her advantage in seeing how unknown, or unconsidered there, were the affairs which at Kellynch-hall were treated as of such general publicity and pervading interest”. In fact, Anne is surprised—in a good way—at how blithe the Musgroves are about the matters that have been twisting her into knots for the past several weeks. They’ll infrequently direct a question at her about Sir Walter and Elizabeth’s plans for Bath, but without waiting for an answer they’ll plunge right on to the next item of interest, be it Oh look at what the dog is doing now, or Where is my thread-winder, it was right here a minute ago, I can’t keep anything nice in this house.
In fact, Anne recognizes that it’s only right that each family has its own concerns to occupy its collective mind, and she determines that as long as she’s going to be here for two weeks, “it was highly incumbent on her to clothe her imagination, her memory, and all her ideas in as much of Uppercross as possible.” This sets her immediately apart from Mary, who’s still, after years of marriage, waiting sulkily for Uppercross to conform to her.
Anne’s so skilled at ingratiating herself with everyone in the family that she even gets along with Mary’s husband—who, you’ll remember, proposed to Anne before he popped the question to Mary. You’d think there might be some awkwardness between Charles Musgrove and the woman who turned him down, but no. It certainly helps that Anne’s greater exposure to Charles does absolutely nada to persuade her he might’ve improved as her husband. He “did nothing with much zeal, but sport; and his time was otherwise trifled away, without benefit from books, or any thing else.” In fact, he seems a much better spouse for Mary, because his general good spirits “never seemed much affected by his wife’s occasional lowness”.
We might wish for Charles to be a more sharply drawn comic character, but there are other compensations to be had at Uppercross, such as Anne serving as a sounding board for everyone’s separate complaints, which are hilariously contradictory. For instance:
Mary’s declaration was, “I hate sending the children to the Great House, though their grandmamma is always wanting to see them, for she humours and indulges them to such a degree, and gives them so much trash and sweet things, that they are sure to come back sick and cross for the rest of the day.”—And Mrs. Musgrove took the first opportunity of being alone with Anne to say, “Oh! Miss Anne, I cannot help wishing Mrs. Charles had a little of your method with the children…Bless me, how troublesome they are sometimes!—I assure you, Miss Anne, it prevents me wishing to see them at our house so often as I otherwise should.”
But there’s a down side to Anne being such a peach to everyone, and making herself the best pal and confidante of every member in the household, and that is, Mary suffers by comparison. For instance, Mary’s nose is still out of joint over the fact that when she and Charles dine at the Great House, she isn’t given the precedence that is due her, as a baronet’s daughter, in walking in to dinner. Whereas Anne, also a baronet’s daughter, doesn’t care who walks in before her, and would probably go in last if anyone asked her. (Hell, she’d eat up in the attic off a tin tray, if anyone asked her.) This is noticed, and quietly remarked upon, and very much not in any way that’s to Mary’s advantage.
Which isn’t to say that everyone is suddenly Team Anne. As is pretty much always the case with our excessively humble homegirl, her presence at Uppercross is all about utility. She’s there for everyone to vent their frustrations to, without them returning the favor by hearing hers; her mere presence improves Mary’s spirits, but Mary’s presence is a constant drain on her own; and her role overall, as she sees it, is to facilitate everyone else’s happiness while ignoring her own. It’s easy for her to disappear in such a large family, and to be overlooked in the constant socializing with the surrounding neighbors. When they gather together for a dance, Anne prefers “the office of musician to a more active post”; she deliberately sidelines herself. This isn’t self-abasement, so much; it’s just a grown woman making what she sees as the only place available for her in the lives of her friends and family. And yeah, it’s pretty sad.
Soon the Crofts move into Kellynch, and the awkward necessity of paying a call on them arises. Of course the sister who hasn’t lived there in years bemoans it most loudly. “Mary deployed the necessity for herself. ‘Nobody knew how much she should suffer. She should put it off as long as she could.’” But it’s all show; in fact she nags her husband into driving her over “on an early day; and was in a very animated, comfortable state of imaginary agitation when she came back.”
Anne herself finally gets a look at Mrs. Croft—her might-have-been sister-in-law—when she and the Admiral return the call by popping in at Uppercross. Anne’s on full alert “to watch for a likeness, and if it failed her in the features, to catch it in the voice, or the turn of sentiment and expression.”
Mrs. Croft, though neither tall nor fat, had a squareness, uprightness, and vigour of form, which gave importance to her person. She had bright dark eyes, good teeth, and altogether an agreeable face; though her reddened and weather-beaten complexion, the consequence of having been almost as much at sea as her husband, made her seem to have lived some years longer in the world than her real eight and thirty. Her manners were open, easy, and decided, like one who had no distrust of herself, and no doubts of what to do; without any approach to coarseness, however, or any want of good humour.
Austen has rarely, if ever, heaped this much adulation on any of her female characters. Even Lizzie Bennet had that prejudice thing to keep her from scoring a perfect 10 on the Just-Gotta-Love-Her scale. But Austen isn’t just gifting us with a graceful, capable, confident earth mother for the sake of mere iconography. What she’s really doing—very slyly—is giving us (and Anne, whether she knows it or not) a look at what Anne herself might be in a parallel universe, one in which she actually married Captain Wentworth. When Anne looks at Mrs. Croft, she’s seeing the Road Not Taken.
She doesn’t really have time to dwell on it, however, as Mrs. Croft snaps her to attention by casually bringing up the one subject Anne would rather fling herself out the nearest window than have to embark upon.
“It was you, and not your sister, I find, that my brother had the pleasure of being acquainted with, when he was in this country.”
Anne hoped she had outlived the age of blushing; but the age of emotion she certainly had not.
“Perhaps you may not have heard that he is married,” added Mrs. Croft.
This not being Italian opera, Anne does not grab the poker from the fireplace and impale herself upon it, though I’m pretty sure the thought does cross her mind. But in that moment of reflection, Mrs. Croft makes it clear she’s talking about her curate brother and not her captain brother. Whew! So apparently the Crofts really don’t have a clue about the whole engagement imbroglio.
Anne’s just congratulating herself on a narrow escape, when the Admiral, rising to depart, drop-kicks her back into a tizzy by announcing, “We are expecting a brother of Mrs. Croft’s here soon; I dare say you know him by name.” But this time we don’t get to find out immediately which brother is meant, because the Admiral is “cut short by the eager attacks of the little boys, clinging to him like an old friend; and being too much engrossed by proposals of carrying them away in his coat pocket, &c., to have another moment for finishing or recollecting what he had begun”. Which gets my vote as she most adorable freaking scene in the whole of Austen.
With the Admiral gone, Anne can’t know whether her jilted fiancé is the brother soon to descend on them; but at least she can take solace in no longer having to hear his name crop up when she least expects it. After all, no one in Uppercross knows Captain Frederick Wentworth from a hole in the wall. Right?...I mean, right?
Wrong. Turns out there was a fourth Musgrove siblin, after Charles and the two girls: a boy named Richard, who was pretty much the black sheep of the family—“a very troublesome, hopeless son”—and the only thing they could do with him was ship him off to sea while he was still in his teens, “because he was stupid and unmanageable on shore”. And at sea he stayed, “seldom heard of, and scarcely at all regretted, when the intelligence of his death abroad had worked its way to Uppercross, two years before.”
As often happens, death wipes Richard’s slate clean of all his defects. From the moment they heard he was no more, the Musgroves—especially Mom and Pop—grieved and languished and pined for their lovely young Adonis, taken from them too soon and yadda yadda. (Here’s Austen the piercing social satirist benefitting from the insights of Austen the master of human psychology.)
Now, in the wake of Admiral Croft’s visit, and the mention of a Captain Wentworth as a member of the Admiral’s family, a little light bulb goes off in Mama Musgrove’s head. She recalls the two letters she received from Richard during his seafaring years; only two, and in each one he admits that he is being forced to write by his captain, who otherwise is right jolly old salt cod, or whatever terms of praise an English sailor might use in a letter to his parents. Helluva guy, is what it amounts to. Dick Musgrove might be a worthless S.O.B., but he doesn’t half look up to his good ole cap’n.
Mrs. Musgrove, acting on a hunch, ferrets out the letters, and there it is, just as she thought: Richard’s captain’s name was Wentworth. You don’t suppose…?
To hear them talking so much of Captain Wentworth, repeating his name so often, puzzling over past years, and at last ascertaining that it might, that it probably would, turn out to be the very same Captain Wentworth whom they recollected meeting, once or twice, after their coming back from Clifton;—a very fine young man; but they could not say whether it was seven or eight years ago,—was a new sort of trial to Anne’s nerves. She found, however, that it was one to which she must enure herself. Since he actually was expected in the country, she must teach herself to be insensible on such points.
Yeah, good luck with that one, sweetheart.
This is really funny stuff. Anne, who drifted for years in a kind of arid vacuum, suddenly finds her One Bad Decision coming back fast to snap at her booty. From the moment her father decides to rent out Kellynch, she can’t escape the invocation of Captain Wentworth. She hot-foots it all the way to goddamn Uppercross to get some relief, and where does she find herself?—seated in a room filled with weeping people, clutching old letters from their dead son and wailing their admiration of Captain Wentworth, Captain Wentworth, Captain Wentworth. Really, it could be a vaudeville sketch.
And next time, it won’t just be the Captain’s name intruding on Anne’s peace of mind. It’ll be the right jolly old salt cod himself.