Captain Wentworth is staying at Kellynch for an extended period of time. He frequently visits Uppercross to see the Musgroves. Charles Hayter is a cousin of the Musgroves. He is also a suitor of Henrietta. This young man is upset when he comes back from a short trip to see Captain Wentworth there receiving so much attention from Henrietta. The narrator provides us with background information on the Hayter family. Mrs. Hayter is Mrs. Musgrove’s sister. As Mrs. Hayter’s husband is of inferior social rank to Mr. Musgrove, she is of a lower social class than her sister. The Hayter family has an “inferior, retired and unpolished” manner of living, and they are not as educated as the Musgroves. The two families get along very well, however. The Musgroves would not stand in the way of Henrietta marrying Charles Hayter if doing so makes her happy. However, Mary is against the match, thinking it would be degrading for her sister-in-law. Both Henrietta and Louisa appear to like Captain Wentworth, and everyone begins to speculate on which sister he might choose to marry. Henrietta clearly enjoys being around the Captain, and Charles Hayter is jealous and disappointed.
While searching for the Miss Musgroves one morning, Captain Wentworth enters a room and finds Anne there with Mary’s injured child. They both feel very awkward. Charles Hayter walks in, apparently displeased at being around the Captain. Mary’s younger child, Walter, comes in and begins teasing Anne. She is unable to make him leave her alone. Charles Hayter orders the child to get off of Anne, but he refuses to listen. Very quickly, Captain Wentworth removes Walter from his aunt’s shoulders. Anne is very surprised and finds herself so flustered that she is unable to thank Captain Wentworth. She is grateful for his help and is later embarrassed about having been so nervous.
Anne’s observations of the Captain’s behaviour with the Musgrove sisters makes her believe that he is not in love with either of them but rather is just enjoying the attention. Charles Hayter feels rejected by Henrietta, and after a few days he stops coming to Uppercross.
Louisa and Henrietta come to the cottage in the morning, announcing that they are embarking on a long walk. Even though they clearly do not want Mary to come with them, she insists on doing so. When the gentlemen arrive too, everyone decides to go with the young ladies. The party includes Louisa, Henrietta, Captain Wentworth, Anne, Mary, and Charles Musgrove. Anne hopes to keep a low profile and just enjoy the beauty of the landscape. Louisa talks to Captain Wentworth a great deal, flirting and enjoying his attention. She says that if she were in love with a man, nothing would be able to separate her from him.
The group walks in the direction of Winthrop, the Hayters’ home. Mary doesn’t approve of this, and she wants to turn around right away. She does not want to associate with people like the Hayters, but Charles insists that he will visit his aunt. He and Henrietta continue on to the Hayters’ home while the others wait in the woods. They look for seats. Mary assumes that Louisa must have found a better seat elsewhere, but the young lady is with Captain Wentworth. Louisa and Captain Wentworth discuss the topic of firmness of character. Louisa was the one successful in convincing Henrietta to go to visit Charles. Captain Wentworth compares Louisa’s strength of character to a hazelnut that is happy enough not to have yet fallen from the tree. They continue to talk, and Louisa says that Mary’s “Elliot pride” sometimes annoys her.
Louisa informs Captain Wentworth of the fact that Charles had wanted to marry Anne before he proposed to Mary, and that Anne had turned him down. The Captain appears to be intrigued by this bit of information. Henrietta returns to the group, bringing Charles Hayter with her. It now seems that Henrietta has chosen Charles Hayter and Louisa is meant for Captain Wentworth.
As the group walks home, they see Admiral Croft and his wife, who are in their carriage for a ride. Imagining that Anne must be tired, Captain Wentworth suggests that the Crofts drive her home. Anne deeply appreciates this gesture. While Anne is with them, the Crofts tell her that they hope the Captain will soon marry a nice girl. Anne sees that the Crofts both bear the responsibility of driving, as they share the reins. Mrs. Croft is the one who most successfully steers them around ruts and posts. Anne thinks that this is representative of their marriage overall.