A letter arrives from Mary, delivered with the compliments of the Crofts who have just arrived in town. Mary writes with surprising news that Louisa and Captain Benwick are to be married. Anne marvels at this match between the lively and spirited Louisa and quiet and pensive Benwick, but she resolves the puzzle by reflecting on the unusual circumstances of their mutual stay with the Harvilles—Louisa as she recovered from her concussion, and Benwick as he recovered from mourning. Anne is pleased for them and feels joy at the prospect of Captain Wentworth “unshackled and free.”
Captain Benwick and Louisa’s engagement comes as a surprise, but provides fodder for the novel’s exploration of what makes a good match. Austen suggests that chance may actually play a greater role than real discernment or compatibility; the two are unsuited for each other in temperament, personality, and interests, but they are both apparently eager to fall in love and marry and are in proximity to each other because of Louisa’s injury and extended stay in Lyme. Their engagement also conveniently frees up Captain Wentworth.
The Crofts have as many acquaintances in Bath as they please, but they dutifully take up their connection with the Elliots. Anne sees them regularly, and she often observes them taking daily walks and sharing in everything together, confirming her impression of their marital happiness. One morning, Admiral Croft and Anne run into each other and they engage in warm and friendly conversation. They discuss the engagement between Louisa and Benwick; Anne delicately inquires as to Captain Wentworth’s feelings on the matter, and Admiral Croft relates that Captain Wentworth appears perfectly satisfied with the match in his letter—there is nothing to suggest any feeling of ill-usage or lingering attachment to Louisa. He remarks that Captain Wentworth ought to come to Bath, where there are many available and pretty young women.
Admiral and Mrs. Croft, on the other hand, present a model of a good marriage. They are well-suited for each other and clearly devoted to one another; they share all their activities together, and they are both sensible individuals. They also appear to take equal involvement in managing their daily affairs. Anne’s conversation with Admiral Croft suggests that Captain Wentworth’s attachment to Louisa was weak. Admiral Croft’s mention of the opportunities for partners at Bath affirms the importance of marriage for the eligible Captain Wentworth.