Captain Wentworth pays regular visits to the Musgroves at Uppercross. It is clear he is a favorite of the daughters, and the family speculates which one he will choose. Charles Hayter, a cousin and Henrietta’s suitor, is dismayed to find upon returning from his trip that her affections appear to have shifted towards Captain Wentworth.
As a naval officer with a fortune, rank, and charms, Captain Wentworth has become a very eligible and desirable bachelor. The world of women has opened to him, even as the number of suitors seems to have dwindled for Anne with time.
Charles Hayter is the eldest of the cousins, amiable and pleasing. Mrs. Hayter, his mother, is Mrs. Musgrove’s sister. Marriage has elevated Mrs. Musgrove, while the Hayters are in an “inferior, retired and unpolished way of living.” Nonetheless, the two families are on excellent terms without pride or envy, and their parents have no objection to a match between Charles and Henrietta so long as it makes her happy. Mary, however, wants to see Henrietta and Captain Wentworth paired off, as she considers the Hayters a degrading alliance.
The difference in social importance between the sisters Mrs. Hayter and Mrs. Musgrove reveals the extent to which marriage can elevate or degrade women. But the good relationship between the Hayters and Musgroves also illustrates that class need not always be an obstacle for young lovers when they have supportive parents who care primarily about their children’s happiness.
One morning, Captain Wentworth inadvertently finds himself alone with Anne and the little invalid child while looking for Henrietta and Louisa. The two are unsettled; the situation is made more uncomfortable when Charles Hayter enters the room. One of the younger boys, Walter, comes into the room and begins playing with his aunt, clinging on her back despite her protests and Charles Hayter’s commands to cease. Captain Wentworth comes to her rescue, plucking the boy off her; Anne is so startled and agitated by this kindness that she cannot articulate her thanks. She later feels ashamed of her nervousness.
This incident displays Captain Wentworth’s good qualities and hints at the emergence of his continuing regard for Anne; despite his feelings of ill-usage and bitterness, he does not like to see her hurt and quickly comes to her aid. He is a man of action and compassion, quicker and more decisive in saving her than Charles Hayter. He has no desire for show or thanks, but acts out of the impulse of his own heart.