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Persuasion: Anne Elliot's thoughts on Lyme Regis and a certain Captain

Here's a little piece written from Anne Elliot's point of view  - at this time of the year I start thinking about visits to the sea, especially Lyme, which is a favourite place to visit. I hope you enjoy it.

My first view of Lyme and the sparkling sea glimpsed between cottages and inns teetering on the edges of the narrow winding street, was a sight to cheer the most hardened heart. The November weather was arrested, its habitual grey and dreary mantle banished by blue skies and the sharp light of winter sunshine. Stepping down from the carriage, a mild gust whipped the ribbons on every bonnet, teasing curls, and catching at muslin hems to billow and swell like the boat sails out on the water. My senses were overwhelmed, though the little town was quiet out of season, there was so much to take in - I could taste the tang of the sea and the brine on my tongue, I heard the seagulls mew and watched them soar and swoop, drift and dip.
I could understand, at once, why Captain Wentworth had spoken so warmly of Lyme. He was eager to know everyone’s first impressions.
‘What do you think, Charles, is it not charming? Miss Louisa, is it not everything I described?’
‘It is indeed, Frederick, a most pleasant situation,’ Mr Musgrove answered. ‘Your friends have found an admirable place to settle in.’
The sisters showed all their excitement and pleasure in the expedition as only the very young can do, unable to stem the praise that flowed or their anticipation in exploring further.
‘This wind is playing havoc with my new bonnet,’ complained Mary. ‘I did not expect the air to be so very damp, it must get fearful cold at night.’
Exchanging amused glances, quite used to Mary’s grumbles, the others walked on ahead entering the Three Cups Inn where we were to stay. I wanted to take in the view once more and halted for a moment to watch the vast expanse of the sea, changing in hue as the sun sank lower, my eyes following the picturesque ridge of the hills to the east and the panoramic view of cliffs to the west.
‘That’s Charmouth.’ I heard his soft voice and I turned, surprised to see Captain Wentworth still lingering behind me following my gaze. ‘Its sweet, retired bay, make it the happiest spot for watching the flow of the tide.’
‘It looks enchanting,’ I replied, aware that his eyes were on my face. I could not turn mine to look at him, and kept staring out to sea, hoping he would not notice my flushed cheeks.
‘Yes, a place for sweet contemplation, where memories are made, to be reflected upon and mused over.’
I turned again, but he looked in quite the opposite direction before gesturing to enter the inn. I could not think what he meant, unless he was trying to tell me that he was ready to further embark on his relationship with Louisa Musgrove. In such surroundings it would be easy to fall in love, I thought, and for a moment my mind betrayed me as an image of the two of us, strolling together along the sands loomed before me.

My room surpassed all expectations. Although simply furnished, the bow window commanded delightful views of the sea, and the Assembly Rooms opposite. I stood at the window watching the ebb and flow of the tide, thinking about the timeless nature of all I surveyed, and filled with a sense of wonder at the magnificence of nature’s great beauty. How many people in past years had contemplated the same scene, unchanged for centuries, I could not but wonder, until a knock at the door disturbed my reverie.
‘Anne, are you ready? It is so exciting … we’re to go for a walk along the seafront.’ Louisa and Henrietta’s eyes beseeched me to join them and seeing their youthful fervour for the scheme, my spirits lifted as I followed them downstairs.
The air was mild for the season, and I was caught once more by the freshness of the scene. ‘What a pity it is we cannot stay longer than one night,’ said Louisa, glancing up at the Captain as we walked past the Assembly Rooms perched on the edge of the sea. ‘Mr Manning at the inn told us that the assemblies are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, that there is a small orchestra consisting of three violins and a violincello, and that the room is lit up at night by three glass chandeliers! For the gentlemen there is the usual card table and billiard room, which is sure to please you.’
‘I do think we should consider a longer stay next time. It’s like Brighton in miniature in the season, I am told, all bustle and confusion. And I would love to go bathing,’ added Henrietta.
‘Perhaps we should consider a dip in the morning,’ said the Captain, winking at Charles. ‘I see the bathing machines are still out on the beach.’
‘Well, I should think we’d all catch our death,’ said Mary, pulling her shawl tighter around her shoulders. ‘I do not like to go bathing in summer, let alone consider such madness in winter, and despite its general boasts of being good for one’s health, the only time I was persuaded into the water, I caught a cold. Never again!’
The Musgrove sisters chuckled, and when Captain Wentworth turned to speak again, I returned his hesitant smile. He was clearly embarrassed by my sister’s outburst, and as we turned onto the Cobb she was still bemoaning her lot.
Captain Wentworth’s friends, the Harvilles, were settled in a small house, near the foot of an old pier. He turned in to call on them saying he would join us in a short while and we walked on along the high Cobb wall above the sea. The sun was sinking, a scarlet ball dipping below the horizon, gilding the indigo water lapping against the defences with flashes of gold and crimson. We were by no means tired of admiring all before us; and not even Louisa seemed to feel that we’d parted with Captain Wentworth long, when we saw him coming with three companions, all well known already, by description, to be Captain and Mrs Harville, and a Captain Benwick, who was staying with them. Captain Wentworth had already told us that this friend had suffered greatly, having lost his fiancée, Captain Harville’s sister, only the summer before when he’d been at sea. Captain Benwick had a pleasing countenance, and a melancholy air. He seemed to draw back from conversation, but his companions more than made up for his silence. I was struck by their friendliness and eager invitations to dine with them.
‘It’s our delight to meet you. Come; do oblige us by joining us for some supper. Had we known you were coming sooner we should have insisted you stay longer.’
The Harvilles were very welcoming and easy of manner, and so friendly, that I couldn’t help thinking that in different circumstances they would have been my close friends too. I could not help comparing the sailor friends, and found in my estimation, that none were so handsome, so gentleman-like or so amusing as Captain Wentworth. And though Captain Benwick had a broken heart and felt his suffering to be severe, I felt I had as much, if not more to regret. It was entirely possible that he would rally again, and find love with someone else. I knew, that could never be the case for me - I should never be able to love another. Captain Wentworth would always have my heart.

 Jane Odiwe