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Anne goes home, thinking over Mrs. Smith’s revelations. She is glad she now knows Mr. Elliot’s secrets, but is worried about how what she has to tell will affect her family and friends.
She comes home to find that she has succeeded in avoiding Mr. Elliot’s morning visit, but that he finagled an invitation to return that evening.
Anne admires Mrs. Clay’s acting ability – she seems like she really wants to see Mr. Elliot, when in fact his presence thwarts her presumed plan of becoming Lady Elliot.
Mr. Elliot’s acting that evening, however, pains Anne – not because it’s any worse than usual but because he’s so good at it, which shows her how much of a hypocrite he is.
She works on dialing down their friendship, playing it cool when he tries once more to flatter her.
Anne is pleased to find out that Mr. Elliot is taking a trip out of Bath for a few days.
The next morning Anne plans to dish to Lady Russell, but Mrs. Clay is also going out so Anne dilly-dallies to avoid having to walk with her.
Elizabeth and Sir Walter tell Anne that Lady Russell reads boring books, dresses poorly, and doesn’t wear enough makeup to conceal her age – and that Anne should convey to her their best regards.
They are interrupted by visitors, who turn out to be Charles and Mary – the Musgroves have decided to go to where the action is (or at least to where the narrator is) and have come to Bath.
Anne is genuinely glad to see her old companions, and even Sir Walter and Elizabeth become nice enough once they find out the Musgroves aren’t planning to crash on their impeccably-upholstered couches.
Charles tells Anne that part of the purpose of their trip is for Henrietta to shop for wedding clothes for herself and her sister.
Anne is surprised that the wedding will be happening so soon, and Charles M. replies that Charles Hayter has lucked into a church job and thus is now earning enough to support a wife.
Anne is glad that things are working out equally well for both the sisters.
Charles answers that his father does rather wish his future son-in-laws were richer, and that paying for two weddings and dowries at once is rather a drain on his finances.
Anne praises the Musgrove parents for nonetheless supporting their children in choosing their own spouses, without making a fuss that the husbands don’t have a high enough social rank.
Conversation turns to Louisa, and Charles talks about how she’s changed, and has become a nervous bookworm.
They also talk of Benwick, who Charles likes and respects.
Elizabeth doesn’t want to invite the Musgroves for dinner, because the complexities of a dinner party would reveal how much the Elliots have sunk since Kellynch, and so she decides to invite them to a simpler evening party instead, where she can also show off the Dalrymples.
Anne goes with Charles and Mary to see Henrietta; they stop by Lady Russell’s place, but Anne decides to delay telling her the Mr. Elliot-Mrs. Smith saga until the following day.
With Henrietta and Mrs. Musgrove, Anne enjoys the family warmth her own home is sadly lacking.
Old friends keep coming by, including Captains Harville and Wentworth.
Anne hopes that, since she and Wentworth like each other and they’re reasonably grown up, they’ll be able to sort out all the confusion that currently surrounds them and have a happy ending.
Still, when Anne makes a remark that shows she has Mr. Elliot’s schedule at her fingertips, she realizes that it’s not going to be easy to let Wentworth know that her interests do not lie in that direction.
Her remark is prompted by Mary’s spotting through the window Mr. Elliot speaking with Mrs. Clay, despite his previous statement that he would be out of town for a while.
The nameless visitors go off, leaving just the characters whose names we know.
Charles announces that he’s booked a box at the theater, but Mary reminds him that they’re already going to the party at Sir Walter’s that same night.
Charles enjoys teasing Mary that he’ll go to the theater anyway and that she’ll just have to miss it, but eventually it’s settled that they’ll all go on another night.
Anne cunningly takes the discussion as an opportunity to state to anyone who might be listening that she would much rather go to the theater with the Musgroves than to a party with the Elliots.
Captain Wentworth picks up on this, and strikes up a conversation with Anne; their subject turns to memories of the past, but just as it starts to get interesting, Henrietta interrupts to say they should all go out before they get more nameless visitors.
Before they can actually leave, Sir Walter and Elizabeth show up, casting a chill over the party like the White Witch over Narnia.
They have come to issue a formal invitation to the party, and Elizabeth pointedly includes Wentworth – not because she likes him any more than she did before, but because a good-looking guy is a party asset.
Anne sees Wentworth thinking over the invitation, and hopes that he will come to the party.
Anne, exhausted by all this emotional drama, goes home, where party preparations are in full swing.
In the course of the conversation, Anne outs Mrs. Clay for meeting with the supposedly-absent Mr. Elliot, and sees a tinge of guilt in the woman’s eye as she acknowledges running into him.