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Chapter 23
One day only had passed since Anne's conversation with Mrs. Smith; but a
keener interest had succeeded, and she was now so little touched by Mr. Elliot's
conduct, except by its effects in one quarter, that it became a matter of course
the next morning, still to defer her explanatory visit in Rivers Street. She had
promised to be with the Musgroves from breakfast to dinner. Her faith was
plighted, and Mr. Elliot's character, like the Sultaness Scheherazade's head,
must live another day.
She could not keep her appointment punctually, however; the weather was
unfavourable, and she had grieved over the rain on her friends' account, and felt
it very much on her own, before she was able to attempt the walk. When she
reached the White Hart, and made her way to the proper apartment, she found
herself neither arriving quite in time, nor the first to arrive. The party before her
were, Mrs. Musgrove, talking to Mrs. Croft, and Captain Harville to Captain
Wentworth; and she immediately heard that Mary and Henrietta, too impatient to
wait, had gone out the moment it had cleared, but would be back again soon,
and that the strictest injunctions had been left with Mrs. Musgrove to keep her
there till they returned. She had only to submit, sit down, be outwardly
composed, and feel herself plunged at once in all the agitations which she had
merely laid her account of tasting a little before the morning closed. There was
no delay, no waste of time. She was deep in the happiness of such misery, or the
misery of such happiness, instantly. Two minutes after her entering the room,
Captain Wentworth said--
"We will write the letter we were talking of, Harville, now, if you will give me
Materials were at hand, on a separate table; he went to it, and nearly turning his
back to them all, was engrossed by writing.
Mrs. Musgrove was giving Mrs. Croft the history of her eldest daughter's
engagement, and just in that inconvenient tone of voice which was perfectly
audible while it pretended to be a whisper. Anne felt that she did not belong to
the conversation, and yet, as Captain Harville seemed thoughtful and not
disposed to talk, she could not avoid hearing many undesirable particulars; such
as, "how Mr. Musgrove and my brother Hayter had met again and again to talk it
over; what my brother Hayter had said one day, and what Mr. Musgrove had
proposed the next, and what had occurred to my sister Hayter, and what the
young people had wished, and what I said at first I never could consent to, but
was afterwards persuaded to think might do very well," and a great deal in the
same style of open-hearted communication: minutiae which, even with every
advantage of taste and delicacy, which good Mrs. Musgrove could not give, could
be properly interesting only to the principals. Mrs. Croft was attending with great
good-humour, and whenever she spoke at all, it was very sensibly. Anne hoped
the gentlemen might each be too much self-occupied to hear.
"And so, ma'am, all these thing considered," said Mrs. Musgrove, in her powerful
whisper, "though we could have wished it different, yet, altogether, we did not
think it fair to stand out any longer, for Charles Hayter was quite wild about it, and