Wentworth starts to really notice Anne as she now is based on seeing her interactions and effect on two men.
Up until now, Wentworth has been angry, and he resents how she treated him in the past. But he comes to see that that's the case - and he starts to re-think the current-day Anne, based on his observation of her with two very different men, and on her conduct following Louisa's fall.
First, Wentworth is much struck by his observation of the admiring glances that come Anne's way from a stranger whom they happen to pass at the steps along the Cobb, which is a large stone breakwater built in the harbor. You can have a look at footage of the Cobb at this webpage. It's a popular site in movie versions of Persuasion, as well as a in The French Lieutenant's Woman; the Cobb can be seen in the first several seconds of the opening of the trailer, which you can see at the link I just provided (following a commercial - it's an Asian site, but the trailer's in English). There is a walkway atop the Cobb, accessible as long as there's no storm, and a walkway at water's edge on the side of the Cobb on the "inside" of the harbor - the ocean breaks against the other side, as you can see in the following video, which gives you some idea what the waves there can be like:
But I digress. Back to our chapter:
When they came to the steps, leading upwards from the beach, a gentleman at the same moment preparing to come down, politely drew back, and stopped to give them way. They ascended and passed him; and as they passed, Anne's face caught his eye, and he looked at her with a degree of earnest admiration, which she could not be insensible of. She was looking remarkably well; her very regular, very pretty features, having the bloom and freshness of youth restored by the fine wind which had been blowing on her complexion, and by the animation of eye which it had also produced. It was evident that the gentleman, (completely a gentleman in manner) admired her exceedingly. Captain Wentworth looked round at her instantly in a way which shewed his noticing of it. He gave her a momentary glance, -- a glance of brightness, which seemed to say, "That man is struck with you, -- and even I, at this moment, see something like Anne Elliot again."
His other reassessment is implied, and is based on Anne's conversation with Captain Harville. Harville thanks Anne for having spent so much time with Benwick, and having drawn him out as she did. He then details how close the three captains are: how Benwick now lives with the Harvilles, and how it was Wentworth who found Benwick to impart the news of his fiancée's death, staying with him for days. It is to be inferred that Wentworth - who is fond of Benwick, as is Harville - was likely equally pleased with Anne's conversation with Benwick, and with her having drawn him out as she did.
The tragedy on the Cobb.
The tragedy on the Cobb - Louisa Musgrove's fall - is a famous moment in Persuasion, and also in the history of Lyme Regis. There is, for instance, this tidbit from a text written by Fanny Caroline Lefroy, a niece of Austen's, in 1879:
We happened also to know that when Mr. Tennyson went [to Lyme], and his friends wanted to show him the precise spot where the Duke of Monmouth landed, he exclaimed with an indignation equally creditable to his own genius and to hers, 'Don't talk to me of the Duke of Monmouth. Show me that precise spot where Louise Musgrave fell.'
Louisa, as it turns out, has been having Captain Wentworth jump her down from atop the stiles when they are on their country walks. A stile is, in essence, a way for people to get over a wall or fence - usually a few steps up one side and down the other, and often with something akin to a small platform at the top to allow a person to maneuver. Louisa would climb to the top of the stile, then get Wentworth to "jump her down" - she'd jump, and he'd catch her, most likely in a hands-under-her-armpits kind of way. At the Cobb, Louisa first jumps from a few steps above the lower walkway (on the harbor side of the Cobb), even though Captain Wentworth is concerned about the hardness of the landing surface. She gets such a rush from it, does our little daredevil, that she runs up the stairs to be jumped down again - only she jumps before Wentworth is ready, and cracks her head on the pavement.
Let's examine how everyone reacts, shall we?
Louisa: lifeless and pale
Wentworth: "my God, my God, what have I done?" (or variations on that type of theme)
Henrietta: swoons; is caught by Benwick and Anne
Mary: screams in hysterics; is tended by Charles
Charles: immobile, holding Mary
Benwick: immobile, but holding half of Henrietta
Anne: tells Benwick to use smelling salts, she'll hold Henrietta herself, kthx, then orders them to send for a surgeon - specifically sending Benwick, who knows the town, rather than Wentworth, who'd have to run around looking for help
Charles and Wentworth look to Anne for direction, and she provides it, keeping her head while everyone else loses theirs. And so it is that, Louisa having been established in a room at the Harvilles' house, we come to this:
. . . Anne, coming quietly down from Louisa's room, could not but hear what followed, for the parlour door was open.
"Then it is settled, Musgrove," cried Captain Wentworth, "that you stay, and that I take care of your sister home. But as to the rest;--as to the others;--if one stays to assist Mrs. Harville, I think it need be only one.--Mrs. Charles Musgrove will, of course, wish to get back to her children; but if Anne will stay, no one so proper, so capable as Anne!"
She paused a moment to recover from the emotion of hearing herself so spoken of. The other two warmly agreed with what he said, and she then appeared.
"You will stay, I am sure; you will stay and nurse her;" cried he, turning to her and speaking with a glow, and yet a gentleness, which seemed almost restoring the past.--She coloured deeply; and he recollected himself, and moved away.--She expressed herself most willing, ready, happy to remain.
Mary, however, has other views on the subject, and becomes nearly hysterical over being deemed less competent than Anne. Having pitched a hissy fit, it's Anne who gets sent home with Henrietta and Captain Wentworth. Anne cannot help wondering what I've been thinking - which is that Louisa's impulsivity and decisiveness has its downside. Louisa's big on knowing her own mind and acting on it, but we've now seen that's not necessarily a good thing.
We get our final tip that Wentworth has started to reconsider his opinion of Anne at the end of the chapter, when he consults her as to whether he ought to go in to tell the Musgrove parents what has transpired on his own while Anne waits in the carriage with Henrietta, thereby sparing Henrietta's having to be involved in the telling.
Tomorrow, were we reading from the original printing of Persuasion, we'd be starting on the first chapter of the second volume. As the book is mostly printed in a single-volume edition these days (being, as it is, only 168 pages in the Norton Edition that I'm using), I'll be going with the "Chapter 13" designation.
Back to Chapter Eleven
On to Chapter Thirteen