Chapter 10, part 2
“Yes; he had done it. She was in the carriage, and felt that he had placed her there, that his will and his hands had done it, that she owed it to his perception of her fatigue, and his resolution to give her rest. She was very much affected by the view of his disposition towards her, which all these things made apparent. This little circumstance seemed the completion of all that had gone before. She understood him. He could not forgive her, but he could not be unfeeling. Though condemning her for the past, and considering it with high and unjust resentment, though perfectly careless of her, and though becoming attached to another, still he could not see her suffer, without the desire of giving her relief. It was a remainder of former sentiment; it was an impulse of pure, though unacknowledged friendship; it was a proof of his own warm and amiable heart, which she could not contemplate without emotions so compounded of pleasure and pain, that she knew not which prevailed.”
“…pure, though unacknowledged friendship…” This is the second instance where Wentworth has stepped in and given Anne relief from an uncomfortable situation. (The first being in Chapter 9, when he rescues her from Little Walter, Oppressor of the Cottage and All Lands Beyond.)
Anne makes a mistake here, I think. She believes that even as he is becoming “attached to another” Frederick can’t see her suffer and wants to give her relief. At their first dinner together at Uppercross, she lamented how distant they have become, and how in the past, they were so like-minded and into each other, even in company. I think she’s torn between seeing that he is not in love and presuming that it will eventually happen.
If Frederick Wentworth is truly falling for Louisa, how can he even notice Anne at this point? The walk to Winthrop clears the romantic decks of the tiresome Charles Hayter, and assures smooth sailing for the couple.
The party meets the Crofts out-and-about, the Crofts offer any of the ladies a ride, and all refuse. The group crosses the road and has to use a stile so they might cross the next field. In my mind I see Wentworth crossing over first to help the ladies. The text says: “…and the admiral was putting his horse into motion again, when Captain Wentworth cleared the hedge in a moment to say something to his sister.” I envision him handing over one of the girls and he can’t help noticing Anne is tired to the bone. Being the manly hero, he jumps the hedge back to the lane and sees she’s looked after.
I know thinking of him doing an Errol Flynn is overly romantic, but Frederick does care about Anne. These small acts show he observes her and her needs. Frederick breaking away, leaving the object of his supposed growing affection, to make sure a tired Anne has a ride home is not the behavior of a dewy-eyed lover. These are the actions of a man fighting to understand himself.