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Chapter 8
From this time Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot were repeatedly in the same
circle. They were soon dining in company together at Mr. Musgrove's, for the little
boy's state could no longer supply his aunt with a pretence for absenting herself;
and this was but the beginning of other dinings and other meetings.
Whether former feelings were to be renewed must be brought to the proof;
former times must undoubtedly be brought to the recollection of each; they could
not but be reverted to; the year of their engagement could not but be named by
him, in the little narratives or descriptions which conversation called forth. His
profession qualified him, his disposition lead him, to talk; and "That was in the
year six;" "That happened before I went to sea in the year six," occurred in the
course of the first evening they spent together: and though his voice did not
falter, and though she had no reason to suppose his eye wandering towards her
while he spoke, Anne felt the utter impossibility, from her knowledge of his mind,
that he could be unvisited by remembrance any more than herself. There must
be the same immediate association of thought, though she was very far from
conceiving it to be of equal pain.
They had no conversation together, no intercourse but what the commonest
civility required. Once so much to each other! Now nothing! There had been a
time, when of all the large party now filling the drawing-room at Uppercross, they
would have found it most difficult to cease to speak to one another. With the
exception, perhaps, of Admiral and Mrs. Croft, who seemed particularly attached
and happy, (Anne could allow no other exceptions even among the married
couples), there could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no
feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved. Now they were as strangers;
nay, worse than strangers, for they could never become acquainted. It was a
perpetual estrangement.
When he talked, she heard the same voice, and discerned the same mind. There
was a very general ignorance of all naval matters throughout the party; and he
was very much questioned, and especially by the two Miss Musgroves, who
seemed hardly to have any eyes but for him, as to the manner of living on board,
daily regulations, food, hours, &c., and their surprise at his accounts, at learning
the degree of accommodation and arrangement which was practicable, drew
from him some pleasant ridicule, which reminded Anne of the early days when
she too had been ignorant, and she too had been accused of supposing sailors
to be living on board without anything to eat, or any cook to dress it if there were,
or any servant to wait, or any knife and fork to use.
From thus listening and thinking, she was roused by a whisper of Mrs.
Musgrove's who, overcome by fond regrets, could not help saying--
"Ah! Miss Anne, if it had pleased Heaven to spare my poor son, I dare say he
would have been just such another by this time."
Anne suppressed a smile, and listened kindly, while Mrs. Musgrove relieved her
heart a little more; and for a few minutes, therefore, could not keep pace with the
conversation of the others.