He staid an hour with them. The elegant little clock on the mantel-piece had struck “eleven with its silver sounds,” and the watchman was beginning to be heard at a distance telling the same tale, before Mr Elliot or any of them seemed to feel that he had been there long.
Anne could not have supposed it possible that her first evening in Camden Place could have passed so well!
There was one point which Anne, on returning to her family, would have been more thankful to ascertain even than Mr Elliot’s being in love with Elizabeth, which was, her father’s not being in love with Mrs Clay; and she was very far from easy about it, when she had been at home a few hours. On going down to breakfast the next morning, she found there had just been a decent pretence on the lady’s side of meaning to leave them. She could imagine Mrs Clay to have said, that “now Miss Anne was come, she could not suppose herself at all wanted;” for Elizabeth was replying in a sort of whisper, “That must not be any reason, indeed. I assure you I feel it none. She is nothing to me, compared with you;” and she was in full time to hear her father say, “My dear madam, this must not be. As yet, you have seen nothing of Bath. You have been here only to be useful. You must not run away from us now. You must stay to be acquainted with Mrs Wallis, the beautiful Mrs Wallis. To your fine mind, I well know the sight of beauty is a real gratification.”
He spoke and looked so much in earnest, that Anne was not surprised to see Mrs Clay stealing a glance at Elizabeth and herself. Her countenance, perhaps, might express some watchfulness; but the praise of the fine mind did not appear to excite a thought in her sister. The lady could not but yield to such joint entreaties, and promise to stay.
In the course of the same morning, Anne and her father chancing to be alone together, he began to compliment her on her improved looks; he thought her “less thin in her person, in her cheeks; her skin, her complexion, greatly improved; clearer, fresher. Had she been using any thing in particular?” “No, nothing.” “Merely Gowland,” he supposed. “No, nothing at all.” “Ha! he was surprised at that;” and added, “certainly you cannot do better than to continue as you are; you cannot be better than well; or I should recommend Gowland, the constant use of Gowland, during the spring months. Mrs Clay has been using it at my recommendation, and you see what it has done for her. You see how it has carried away her freckles.”
If Elizabeth could but have heard this! Such personal praise might have struck her, especially as it did not appear to Anne that the freckles were at all lessened. But everything must take its chance. The evil of a marriage would be much diminished, if Elizabeth were also to marry. As for herself, she might always command a home with Lady Russell.