After further observation, Anne believes that Captain Wentworth is in love with neither Henrietta nor Louisa. They are more infatuated with him; though Anne suspects Henrietta still divided in her affections. Charles Hayter seems slighted and eventually stops visiting. Captain Wentworth appears entirely oblivious as to the pain he has inflicted, and Anne is satisfied to believe that his only fault is in accepting the attentions of two young women at once.
Quiet and unobtrusive, Anne is nonetheless extremely observant and perceptive. She is also able to discern both qualities in others, and she infers the true state of Captain Wentworth’s heart towards Henrietta and Louisa. However, Anne’s humility and generosity prevent her from observing his enduring attachment and unfairness to herself.
One morning, the sisters decide to go for a long walk. Mary insists on joining them, though her presence is clearly unwelcome; Anne joins as well with the intention of tempering the situation. They run into Charles Musgrove and Captain Wentworth and set out together. Captain Wentworth and Louisa flirt gaily; at one point, she exclaims that she would never allow anything to separate her from the man she loved, to his enthusiastic agreement for that viewpoint. Despite her intention to simply enjoy the beautiful weather and exercise, Anne cannot help being distracted by their exchange.
We observe the degree to which Captain Wentworth’s values have been shaped by his experiences with Anne and prejudiced against flexibility of mind. He prizes passion, conviction, and loyalty in a woman because he believes Anne allowed herself to be persuaded against him eight years earlier , and he seems to believe that these “active” behaviors are associated with the kind of enthusiastic and dramatic claims of Louisa.
The party finds themselves at Winthrop, the home of the Hayters. Mary disgustedly suggests they turn back at the prospect of encountering their lowly connections. Louisa and Charles protest, though, and it is decided that he and Henrietta will visit the Hayters. The others wait and wander in the woods. Louisa and Captain Wentworth separate from the group. Mary cannot be satisfied with sitting still, as she is convinced that Louisa has found a better spot; Anne takes the opportunity to rest behind a shrub.
Mary displays contempt for her socially inferior relations before which Henrietta’s desire to see Charles Hayter appears to waver. It is only after Louisa and Charles encourage and support Henrietta’s initial inclination that she finds the courage to visit the Hayters; however, her hesitation stems from less worthy motives than Anne’s submission to Lady Russell.
Anne overhears Louisa telling Captain Wentworth that she encouraged Henrietta to visit Charles Hayter, though Henrietta would have turned back after Mary’s interference. The two discuss the evils of “yielding and indecisive” characters and extol the virtue of firm resolution; Captain Wentworth playfully compares this quality to a hazelnut plucked from a tree, which is not trodden underfoot like others. He declares that his greatest wish for those he is interested in should be that they be firm.
Captain Wentworth extols firmness of resolve as the pinnacle of virtues; he believes that real happiness comes from unwavering conviction, like a hazelnut upon which no impressions have been made. He equates firmness of principle to inflexibility of mind, not recognizing that the latter may lead to disastrous consequences and folly.
As they walk away, Louisa tells Captain Wentworth that she wishes her brother had married Anne instead of the snobbish Mary. He inquires interestedly in the affair, learning that Anne refused Charles, which his parents attributed to the influence of Lady Russell. When the group reassembles, Henrietta has brought Charles Hayter with her.
The conversation between Louisa and Captain Wentworth is painful and frustrating for Anne, as it reveals to her a number of negative impressions and misinterpretations of her past actions by Wentworth—as well as how those misunderstandings have shaped her beloved.
On their way back, they run into Admiral and Mrs. Croft in their carriage. Captain Wentworth arranges for them to give Anne a lift, displaying a touching and gallant sensitivity to her fatigue. She receives it as the remainder of former sentiment, and proof of his warm and amiable heart.