Captain Wentworth arrives to stay with his sister, Mrs. Croft, at Kellynch Hall. Mr. Musgrove returns from calling on Captain Wentworth with warm praise; he has invited him to dinner at the Great House at Uppercross.
Positive reports and praise continue to trickle in alongside Anne’s memories of Captain Wentworth, building anticipation for his arrival.
Anne feels very anxious about seeing Captain Wentworth again after so many years. However, the day he visits their reunion is delayed; as Mary and Anne head over to meet him at the Great House, Mary’s little boy dislocates his collar-bone. The apothecary declares that the injury is not critical. The same day Henrietta and Louisa visit with reports of how much more charming, handsome, and agreeable Captain Wentworth is than any other male they know. He is to dine with them the next day.
The suspense continues to build, as Anne’s reunion with Captain Wentworth is further delayed. The sisters bring back glowing praise for Captain Wentworth, and everything suggests that he is in a much better position all around than he was eight years ago. Meanwhile, Anne’s life revolves around caring for her negligent and silly family members.
The following day, the child appears to be recovering well. Charles decides he will dine at the Great House, but Mary is displeased that she will have to stay at home to care for the boy and miss out on meeting Captain Wentworth. Anne offers to stay at home with the boy herself, and Mary delightedly departs.
Mary’s self-absorption and disregard for her children is particularly contrasted with Anne’s selfless helpfulness. Mary exhibits obliviousness to Anne’s desires similar to that way that Sir Walter and Elizabeth do.
Anne wonders about Captain Wentworth’s feelings are for her after all these years, believing him to be either unwilling or indifferent. Charles and Mary return with warm reports of Captain Wentworth, whom it appears everyone loves.
Anne possesses a remarkable self-awareness that extends to her consideration of the feelings of others. Her humility and sensibility prevent her from assuming Captain Wentworth’s constancy in love equal to hers.
Captain Wentworth calls on Mary the following morning, before leaving to hunt with Charles. He briefly acknowledges Anne’s presence and is gone. Later, she learns from Mary that he told Henrietta he thought Anne was “so altered he should not have known [her] again.” Anne feels hurt, but soberly resolves to compose herself. She recognizes that time has taken her beauty and youth, while it has only enhanced Captain Wentworth’s personal advantages.
Captain Wentworth displays an initial coldness to Anne that suggests the difference that eight years have made in lowering Anne’s prospects and raising his own. The unequal impact that time has in influencing male and female marital prospects is a symptom of the gender inequality present in Austen’s England.
Captain Wentworth, for his part, has not forgiven Anne; he was deeply attached to her, and believed her actions in breaking the engagement to display feeble character. Confident and rich, he has now resolved to marry, and is eager to fall in love with “any pleasing young woman who came his way” with the unspoken exception of Anne Elliot.
Captain Wentworth’s behavior towards Anne reflects his bitterness and ungenerous evaluation of her past actions. Anne, for her part, continues to interpret his actions with compassion and admiration.