A Winter's Persuasion - Chapter Twenty-Two
When last we saw Anne, it was early morning (in this case, that probably means "sometime before noon", since the term "morning" was extremely broad and extended until roughly dinnertime - in a fashionable place like Bath, morning was probably a bit longer than in the countryside, where they dined earlier - but I digress). It was early morning, and Anne got quite an earful of information from her school friend, Mrs. Smith. Anne begins this chapter by commenting on how very helpful Mrs. Smith was (I'll say!), as she hustles home to find that she has successfully avoided Mr. Elliot's morning call (hooray!) but that Elizabeth has invited him around again for the evening (boo!). One of Elizabeth's reasons for inviting him? He was going to be out of town all day tomorrow. Dear Jane: I sense that's an important detail - nicely played, madam.
Anne is amazed that Mrs. Clay seems so pleased that Mr. Elliot will be coming back, now that she's gotten a bit of confirmation that Mrs. Clay was hoping to be Mrs. (Sir Walter) Elliot. Still think you're stage-setting, Miss Austen. That evening, Anne behaves rather coolly toward Mr. Elliot, but is pleased to hear that he is going out of town - for two whole days. Or is he?
The next day is Friday, and Anne really wants to visit Lady Russell, but she doesn't want to get stuck walking out with Mrs. Clay - and in her delay, she's home in time to greet Charles and Mary Musgrove - remember them? Guess what? EVERYBODY IN THE BOOK has now come to Bath. Okay - not everybody. Benwick, Louisa and Mr. Musgrove are still in Uppercross, and Mrs. Harville and her children aren't here either, but everybody else is now in Bath. That can only mean that our conclusion is rapidly approaching. Indeed - there are only three more chapters after this.
Charles Musgrove says he has a good opinion of Captain Benwick - in part because Benwick was so good at rat-hunting in the barn. Look - I don't even know what to make of that. Just take it at face value and enjoy today's illustration. Elizabeth settles her internal debate: dinner for everyone as she ought to do, but then everyone will see how under-staffed they are, or a simple "party" without actually feeding them? Propriety or vanity? And the winner is . . . well, this being Elizabeth, it's no contest: VANITY FTW! Party at the Elliots' house tomorrow (Saturday) night! S-A- TUR- DAY NIGHT!
Anne sweeps along with Charles and Mary to say howdy to Mrs. Musgrove when who to her wondering eyes should appear by Captains Harville and Wentworth. Wentworth appears to still be suffering the pangs of jealousy, which are not abated at all when there's a conversation about the seeing of Mr. Elliot and Mrs. Clay having a tete-à-tete in the street below, in which Anne reveals her knowledge of Mr. Elliot's plans, thereby causing Captain Wentworth to think they are a two-some.
Charles's comment about heirs and representatives, and this part in particular: "I am not one of those who neglect the reigning power to bow to the rising sun" - may be a bit of a swipe at the Prince Regent, whom Jane Austen did not care for at all. In 1814, she had been pretty much compelled to dedicate Emma to him, but her disdain for the Regent and the way he lived his life was evident from surviving letters.
Clever Anne tries to telegraph her feelings about the state of affairs to Wentworth with a comment directed to Mrs. Musgrove:
"If it depended only on my inclination, ma'am, the party at home (excepting on Mary's account) would not be the smallest impediment. I have no pleasure in the sort of meeting, and should be too happy to change it for a play, and with you. But, it had better not be attempted, perhaps." She had spoken it; but she trembled when it was done, conscious that her words were listened to, and daring not even to try to observe their effect.
Obviously it worked, since Captain Wentworth finds his way to a chair next to Anne, in which he engages in a personal sort of conversation with her, referencing their past knowledge of one another and the amount of time that has elapsed.
Sir Walter and Elizabeth's entrance into the room, bringing a decided chill and invitations to their very stiff party for all and sundry, cracks me up. The question with which we are left, as the chapter coms to a close, is whether Captain Wentworth will or will not choose to attend the following day. I suppose we shall have to wait and see - on Thursday, perhaps, when we move on to the penultimate chapter, Chapter Twenty-Three. A word to the romantics out there: do not miss Chapter 23, which contains one of the most romantic moments in all of Austen.
Edited to add: I completely got my days of the week bolluxed up, owing in part to my ongoing headcold. This post ought to have run on Thursday, with a Shakespeare post on Wednesday. D'oh!