I usually jump into the text and comment after, but this chapter contains my favorite scene in Persuasion. And, it’s not a scene that is ever included in the adaptation so I can picture it as I see fit. That is why I took the liberty of doing some self-promotion by using text from my novel, None But You.
Captain Wentworth has come to Uppercross Cottage seeking the Musgrove sisters. He finds himself alone with Anne Elliot. They are interrupted by Charles Hayter, also looking for the girls.
Captain Wentworth, however, came from his window, apparently not ill-disposed for conversation; but Charles Hayter soon put an end to his attempts by seating himself near the table, and taking up the newspaper; and Captain Wentworth returned to his window.
Another minute brought another addition. The younger boy, a remarkable stout, forward child, of two years old, having got the door opened for him by some one without, made his determined appearance among them, and went straight to the sofa to see what was going on, and put in his claim to anything good that might be giving away.
There being nothing to eat, he could only have some play; and as his aunt would not let him tease his sick brother, he began to fasten himself upon her, as she knelt, in such a way that, busy as she was about Charles, she could not shake him off. She spoke to him, ordered, entreated, and insisted in vain. Once she did contrive to push him away, but the boy had the greater pleasure in getting upon her back again directly.
“Walter,” said she, “get down this moment. You are extremely troublesome. I am very angry with you.”
“Walter,” cried Charles Hayter, “why do you not do as you are bid? Do not you hear your aunt speak? Come to me, Walter, come to cousin Charles.”
But not a bit did Walter stir.
From None But You: “And why do you not make some decisive action to make the blighter mind? The child was deaf to the voice of his cousin and continued tormenting his aunt. Before giving it any real consideration, Wentworth stepped into the fracas.
At first he thought it would be a simple matter to scoop the child up and take him off to the far side of the room, but when the boy realized what was happening, a struggle began. Sliding his hand under the boy’s belly and gently grasping his shoulder, Wentworth lifted. In all the shifting, his fingers caught in Anne’s apron strings, and to make matters worse, the little squeaker refused to let go of her neck. Disengaging his own fingers, he reached around to Walter’s hands and, with a little prodding, unwrapped then from around her neck. To his dismay, the chubby little fists were sticky. Moreover, he couldn’t help but touch the soft skin of Anne’s face and neck and he worked. A lock of her hair went astray in the tumble. Finally the boy was loose, and he was able to grasp him by the trousers and lift him away.
Walter made a lunge, but Wentworth held him more tightly to his chest. Twisting, he tried to struggle down, but Wentworth’s strong arms trapped him and he quickly surrendered.
He looked over to the sofa where Anne bent over little Charles, speaking to him softly. She seemed unhurt but in need of assistance to stand. Just as he was about to offer his hand, his little captive, still struggling, kicked him. Any aid would have to be left to Hayter, but the curate offered nothing save a mild scolding. “You ought to have minded me, Walter; I told you not to teaze your aunt.”
Wentworth turned his attention to the boy. “You are a naughty one, aren’t you?” The child was not too young to understand that grasping a man’s neck-cloth and giving it a ferocious yank were not to be tolerated. I cannot determine who you most favour, your puffed-up grandfather or your embarrassment of an uncle. I see them both so clearly.
“Oh, isn’t that wonderful? The Captain is becoming acquainted with little Walter.” Mrs. Charles’s voice carried over all the other sounds in the room. He looked over to see the ladies coming to him and the boy.
“Charles, you are come too,” Louisa said, noticing the man at the table. Henrietta looked at him and then quickly away.
“Excuse me, Mary,” Anne interrupted, “but you will have to see to little Charles. I must fetch something from my room.” Her expression was indiscernible to Wentworth, and she moved away without looking to the right or left.
Mary glanced back at the boy on the sofa and then took the hand of her youngest son. Quickly letting go, she said, “I am not in the least surprised, Captain, that you are drawn to Walter. I love my children equally, but I must confess I see more of the Elliot character and countenance in my youngest.”
A clattering sound drew everyone’s attention to the door. Anne knelt to pick up a wooden toy that blocked her path. There had been no thanks when he rescued her from the child. No words of credit or appreciation had passed her lips, not that he wanted or expected any. But now, as she knelt, her eyes looked nowhere but to him. Her look of gratitude was inescapable. Giving the toy a gentle push, she rose, passed into the next room, and receded into the shadows as she pulled the door closed.
So this was her life—caring for the children of others while they carried on unencumbered, playing the tune so others might dance. Anne Elliot was bound to her family and those around her by a strong sense of duty and obligation, and as long as she kept to those duties and obligations, she was assured of the good opinion of all in her circle. It was fortunate there was no interest on his part, for he could never persuade her away from her slavish existence. Yes, he was fortunate indeed.
Out of the blue, the boy lunged and cried, “Mama!” distracting him from his thoughts. Glad to be rid of his squirming burden, he said, “Madam, I assure you that I see not only yourself in the boy, but a great deal of his Elliot forbearers.” As he spoke, he hoisted the child over to his mother. She had no choice but to take him, sticky hands and all. Fetching his gloves and coat, Wentworth looked around and was glad all the ladies were occupied and had not paid any heed to his comment. Had Anne been present she would have understood his allusion perfectly.