Sir Walter, his two daughters, and Mrs. Clay, were the earliest of all their party at
the rooms in the evening; and as Lady Dalrymple must be waited for, they took
their station by one of the fires in the Octagon Room. But hardly were they so
settled, when the door opened again, and Captain Wentworth walked in alone.
Anne was the nearest to him, and making yet a little advance, she instantly
spoke. He was preparing only to bow and pass on, but her gentle "How do you
do?" brought him out of the straight line to stand near her, and make enquiries in
return, in spite of the formidable father and sister in the back ground. Their being
in the back ground was a support to Anne; she knew nothing of their looks, and
felt equal to everything which she believed right to be done.
While they were speaking, a whispering between her father and Elizabeth caught
her ear. She could not distinguish, but she must guess the subject; and on
Captain Wentworth's making a distant bow, she comprehended that her father
had judged so well as to give him that simple acknowledgement of acquaintance,
and she was just in time by a side glance to see a slight curtsey from Elizabeth
herself. This, though late, and reluctant, and ungracious, was yet better than
nothing, and her spirits improved.
After talking, however, of the weather, and Bath, and the concert, their
conversation began to flag, and so little was said at last, that she was expecting
him to go every moment, but he did not; he seemed in no hurry to leave her; and
presently with renewed spirit, with a little smile, a little glow, he said--
"I have hardly seen you since our day at Lyme. I am afraid you must have
suffered from the shock, and the more from its not overpowering you at the time."
She assured him that she had not.
"It was a frightful hour," said he, "a frightful day!" and he passed his hand across
his eyes, as if the remembrance were still too painful, but in a moment, half
smiling again, added, "The day has produced some effects however; has had
some consequences which must be considered as the very reverse of frightful.
When you had the presence of mind to suggest that Benwick would be the
properest person to fetch a surgeon, you could have little idea of his being
eventually one of those most concerned in her recovery."
"Certainly I could have none. But it appears--I should hope it would be a very
happy match. There are on both sides good principles and good temper."
"Yes," said he, looking not exactly forward; "but there, I think, ends the
resemblance. With all my soul I wish them happy, and rejoice over every
circumstance in favour of it. They have no difficulties to contend with at home, no
opposition, no caprice, no delays. The Musgroves are behaving like themselves,
most honourably and kindly, only anxious with true parental hearts to promote
their daughter's comfort. All this is much, very much in favour of their happiness;
more than perhaps--"
He stopped. A sudden recollection seemed to occur, and to give him some taste
of that emotion which was reddening Anne's cheeks and fixing her eyes on the
ground. After clearing his throat, however, he proceeded thus--