Captain Frederick Wentworth’s letter arrived at Kellynch Hall on a Tuesday. Miss Anne Elliot, having been away for her near-daily visit to Lady Russell on its arrival, was informed upon her return that it awaited her. “Though I’m sure I don’t know who might have sent it,” her sister, Miss Mary, said when she gave her sister the news. “For I can’t imagine you know anyone in Plymouth, or that anyone in Plymouth might know you.”
Indeed, there was no little reason for this conjecture, for upon considering the matter Anne could not contrive to remember an acquaintance who might at this time be located in Plymouth, unless it should happen that an old school-friend might be there for a short visit. The only thing to be done was to examine the letter.
“Miss A. E.—" (it began)
“Perhaps you shall consider this an impertinence, but I find I cannot go without writing to you at least the once more. I have, these past two years, been unable to remove your dearest self from my heart, and it was and is your countenance I see before my eyes in dreams. My regard for you remains as unwavering today as it was when you near broke my heart that day these two years past. Is it too much to hope, excellent creature that you are, that my sentiments may be returned?
"You may wonder at my temerity, in addressing myself to you thus, but my career has advanced these past two years, and my successes have bolstered my spirits such that I may venture to renew my addresses. Is there the chance of hope, that such attentions would be welcome?
"Perhaps I overstep. Perhaps I offend, and I would beg a hundred, a thousand pardons should I do so. If I have, a word from you, or your simple silence, shall send me away. But if I have not, if you would accept the renewal of my suit, a mere line in your hand shall bring me to your feet. I shall be at this address until Sept 2-, and live in daily hope of your reply.
Anne’s composure was of necessity much disturbed by the contents of the missive. Thirty minutes, an hour, elapsed as she collected herself, and turned her mind to considering the matter. It was true that her sentiments towards Captain Wentworth had not changed since their last encounter; for the impediment to their attachment had been the circumstances, not her heart. Indeed, the manner under which they had parted had caused her much distress, such as had for a considerable time dimmed the joys of youth.
Should she allow the renewal (indeed, the furthering) of their intimate acquaintance? In the intervening years she had yet to make the acquaintance any other man who might cause her to consider marriage. So, it would be well to say that in this respect, there was no impediment on either side. Indeed, the arrival of the letter had given her cause to hope for the strength of the attachment, and Anne found she could not look forward to it with anything other than joy.
Sir Walter would disapprove of the connexion, for a mere Captain Wentworth was, in his mind, a nothing to a baronet. And yet, to Anne’s mind, the superior qualities of Captain Wentworth’s character could only elevate him in others’ regard, and so the disparity in their births should seem as of little account. It was further true, and Anne regretfully considered it a certain weakness of her father’s character, that Sir Walter was weak to flattery, and were he to be persuaded that the connexion would reflect well on him, he might be disposed to allow the match.
Indeed, the opinion that concerned Anne more was that of her mother’s friend, Lady Russell, for it had been Lady Russell who had persuaded her to reject Captain Wentworth’s offer of marriage those two years ago, considering the match an unfortunate one that could lead to nothing but unhappiness for her dear friend’s daughter. Captain Wentworth’s profession was uncertain, in Lady Russell’s view, and he lacked those connexions that would see him rise within it. Furthermore, he had spent freely what came to him, and had thus realized nothing. It was a state of affairs that had horrified Lady Russell, who had exercised herself to defend Anne from future regret.
These concerns were obstacles to obtaining Lady Russell’s good opinion of the relationship, Anne must admit, but if Captain Wentworth had indeed successfully advanced in his career as he claimed, then surely Lady Russell would consider them addressed? A few inquiries could have the truth of the matter discovered before Anne replied – or perhaps, chose not to reply – to Captain Wentworth.
The evening passed for Anne in a state of distraction, but this went unremarked upon by her father and sisters, who having a tendency to disregard Anne failed utterly to notice that her attentions were elsewhere. Indeed this was for the best, as Anne’s mind was on the letter she had received that day, and on the arguments she would make to Lady Russell on the morrow, and she could not have recalled despite her best efforts what matters were being discussed.
The next day, Anne presented herself at Lady Russell’s home in such a state of mind as could not but concern the lady. Lady Russell’s concerns were not to be diminished, however, for Anne communicated to her a sense of the contents of Captain Wentworth’s letter, before informing the good lady of her intent to resume the attachment.
“My dear Anne!” Lady Russell cried, “can you be serious in this course?”
Anne was most serious, and while she could not convince Lady Russell that this was the best course of action to guarantee Anne’s future happiness, she left the lady in no doubt of Anne’s desire to proceed upon it in preference to any other. With this, Lady Russell must be content. It was to Lady Russell’s credit that, upon seeing that Anne would not be moved, did her best to find the positive, and was soon admitting that Captain Wentworth’s sentiments did him credit, and that he must certainly hold Anne in high esteem, which Lady Russell considered spoke well of his discernment.
What remained, therefore, was for Anne to write Captain Wentworth, and for Lady Russell to privately salve her concerns by making gentle inquiry into Captain Wentworth’s situation. She found it to be considerably improved from two years prior, and was somewhat comforted by the news of his posting to the Laconia, which she was assured meant only further advancement in his career.
Captain Wentworth responded to Anne’s letter with all the alacrity one must find gratifying in a suitor, and an active correspondence ensued between the two young people that led both to conclude that they could have no greater happiness than to wed. Sir Walter, if not persuaded of the benefits of the match, was brought to concede to it by Lady Russell’s sense, though his acquiescence was sped by the eventual news that Captain Wentworth’s sister was wed to another naval man who, many agreed, was shortly to become an Admiral. “My daughter’s kinsman, Admiral Croft,” sounded quite well, and could not but increase Sir Walter’s consequence. Nor did Anne’s sisters venture a criticism of the match, both feeling that while a mere Captain Wentworth would never do for them, being not of the peerage, he would do quite well for Anne, who was after all of very little account.
The sentiments of Anne’s family, however, were not to put a blot on the happy couple’s matrimonial plans. They elected to wed before the Laconia sailed to begin a cruise off the Western Islands, and nothing would do for Anne but she accompany the Captain. “For,” as she said to Lady Russell, “Captain Wentworth’s sister travels with Captain Croft more often than not, and according to Captain Wentworth she holds that a woman may be as comfortable aboard a frigate as anywhere. If such an assertion is true (and I have no reason to doubt it) then it makes greater sense for me to accompany Captain Wentworth than to set up an establishment on shore, does it not?”
Lady Russell conceded the point, though perhaps not without some natural misgivings.
And so it was that when the Laconia sailed, it did so with the new Mrs. Wentworth aboard. The particulars of the voyage, in action seen and ships captured and prize-money awarded, may be found in the Navy Lists, as may the career of Captain Wentworth, whose successive captures and acts of valor earned him both distinction and a handsome fortune. Captain Wentworth, however, would forever hold, when in conversation with intimate friends, that his greatest capture would forever remain Mrs. Anne Wentworth’s heart and hand, to which the lady could not but smile.