To commemorate our second anniversary here at Austen Variations, this month we will be visiting some of Jane Austen’s beloved characters as they celebrate their own anniversaries. Today, Shannon Winslow begins by eavesdropping on the Crofts from Persuasion.
I have a warm spot in my heart for Admiral and Mrs. Croft, especially since developing their relationship through their counterparts in The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen (just mentioned in a BookBub top ten list, btw). According to my premise in that book, Jane Austen modeled Admiral and Mrs. Croft after a lovely couple she knew by the name of Crowe, of whom she thought very highly. They were my inspiration for this anniversary piece, which takes place during the time span of Persuasion, the day the party from Uppercross walked to Winthrop. If you remember, the Crofts, at Cpt. Wentworth’s suggestion, insisted on giving a weary Anne a ride home in their gig. This is what happened next.
After depositing Anne at Uppercross cottage, Admiral and Mrs. Croft continued on toward Kellynch at a gentle pace, the admiral returning to a former topic by and by.
“As I was saying to Miss Elliot before, my dear, sailors cannot afford to go in for long courtships during war, and who knows how long this current peace will hold? Your brother must not tarry about the business of choosing one Miss Musgrove or the other if they are to preserve time to enjoy themselves before he returns to sea.”
“I should very much like to see Frederick well married,” returned Mrs. Croft. “I only hope he will not be in too much of a rush to the altar. I like the Miss Musgroves well enough, but, upon further reflection, I am convinced it will take more than an a little beauty and a few smiles to win my brother’s heart. He deserves a wife with a strong mind and sweetness of temper as well. This is how he has described to me the woman he wants.”
“So, you see he has been thinking on the subject seriously.”
“Yes, and I trust it will serve as some protection against an overly impulsive choice.”
“Ah, that is where you are mistaken, Marguerite. Like all men, he thinks he will judge soundly, but it is more probable he will lose his head and end by making a very stupid match.”
“For shame, Caspian! How can you say such a thing? This is no very fine compliment to me, I fear, or to yourself either. And on our anniversary too!”
“Patience, my dear, he said, patting her hand affectionately. “Patience. I only meant to say that I deserve none of the credit. I lost my head like every other young fool in love. But I had the great good fortune to lose both head and heart to a woman of superior worth. We must hope your brother has the same good luck. Which Miss Musgrove it is to be, I cannot say, for I can never learn to know one from the other. When Frederick introduces the young lady to us as our future sister, that will be time enough to remember her name.”
Mrs. Croft shook her head in wonder, thinking to herself that she was the one who had been gifted with unexpected good fortune in this man. Had not that storm years ago forced the admiral – a captain then – into the port town where she lived, seeking emergency repairs to his ship, they would never have met. What might have become of her then? Perhaps she’d have married somebody else eventually, but she could hardly imagine that she would have been as happy.
Between herself and her husband, there was more depth of affection and mutual respect than she would have dared to hope for. No love sonnets were required to prove it; it was understood between them, daily conveyed in the most seemingly insignificant gestures – the smallest look, word, or touch. The light burned so steadily bright between them that it could not be denied.
Sometimes she wondered if their uncommonly strong bond was the natural outgrowth of their compatible dispositions or if it could only have been forged by their weathering trials and dangers together over the course of the years. She thought once again of their private sorrow of having no children. No, they had not enjoyed that blessing, but there were other compensations…
The admiral interrupted his wife’s reverie. “What shall we do when we reach home… to further celebrate our anniversary, I mean?” he asked.
“We need not make a fuss. Remember, we agreed to keep it to ourselves. Frederick, from all appearances, did not connect any special significance to the date, and there is no reason anybody else should know. We have had our drive in the country, as I wished for, and I have ordered a fine dinner. I need nothing more to make me happy.”
“Nothing I can think of.”
“Well then, Mrs. Croft, it is lucky you have me here. I have one or two more ideas for making you happy before we blow the candles out tonight, things you may have forgotten or are too proper to propose in the light of day.”
Mrs. Croft considered that she could pretend to be shocked by her husband’s suggestive words or deny that she understood his meaning altogether. They knew each other far too well for that, however. Instead, she simply smiled to herself for the thought of what lay ahead. It was a time-honored anniversary tradition, after all, and tradition must be observed. Who was she to dispute that fact?