Mr. Shepherd has been overseeing the rental of Kellynch Hall for Sir Walter Elliot and is bringing prospective renters, Admiral and Mrs. Croft, to view it. This portion comes from Chapter 5 of Persuasion.
“Where is Anne?” Sir Walter called out to no one in particular.
“Do you not remember that she has taken her daily walk to visit with Lady Russell?” Elizabeth looked from Mrs. Clay back to her father.
Sir Walter grumbled. He stood up and began pacing the floor of the drawing room, stopping at different places that gave him a view of his fine person in a looking-glass. “Croft!” he suddenly said aloud, startling the two young ladies. “The Crofts are letting Kellynch.” He tossed his head about. “It does not sound horribly reprehensible.” He repeated again, this time with more inflection, watching the mouth of his reflection form the words. “Admiral Croft and his wife are letting Kellynch.”
“I do not like the sound of it,” Elizabeth whispered to her friend.
Mrs. Clay shook her head in agreement. “Only the esteemed Elliots ought to live in this beautiful place.”
“Mrs. Clay, have you met these Crofts?” Sir Walter inquired.
“Once, and only briefly.” She smiled, but in noticing Sir Walter’s scowl, it faded quickly. “My father seemed quite pleased with them, but they seemed…“ She searched for the right word. “They seemed quite old.”
“I imagine the admiral is old and brown. There would be no question about it.”
“I cannot quite recollect.” Mrs. Clay’s shoulders rose and fell in a sigh.
At the sound of horses approaching to the front, Sir Walter moved to the window and peered out.
“So the Crofts have arrived.” He narrowed his eyes as he furtively studied them stepping out of the carriage. “It appears they are both tall. I am grateful they are not short. That would not do at all!”
He returned to his chair, stopping once more in front of the looking-glass, where he gave his coat a tug. He remained standing as he waited for the couple to be announced.
When Sir Walter’s solicitor, Mr. Shepherd, and Admiral Croft and his wife were admitted to the drawing room, it was all politeness and civil discourse as introductions were made. Sir Walter invited them to sit down and visit before they would be shown the house.
As they settled onto the sofa, Sir Walter perused the couple. The admiral was not so intolerably brown. His hair was a greater mix of white than black and could have done with better styling. His face was more weather-beaten than he would have liked, but his overall appearance was that of a hearty, well-looking gentleman. As they conversed, he determined he would not be ashamed of being seen with the admiral anywhere.
“It is a lovely prospect to the front,” Mrs. Croft said. “Such a lovely park.” She clasped her hands and a broad smile lit her face. “We so wished to find a place in Somersetshire. We looked at several places prior to this that were not suitable at all, but we have been quite pleased with Kellynch at first glance.”
Sir Walter gave a slow nod of his head in appreciation. “Quite a prize, is it not?”
“On first glance, it most certainly is. We drove about the grounds, and they are quite extensive.” Admiral Croft nodded his head towards Mr. Shepherd and then addressed Sir Walter again. “Mr. Shepherd had been quite articulate and accurate as he described the place to us. He had spoken of it with so much feeling that I almost signed the lease on the spot without even seeing it.”
Mr. Shepherd looked proudly at Sir Walter. “A place such as this needs no exaggeration or embellishments. I merely spoke what I knew to be true.”
“Now that England is at peace, we are looking forward to planting our feet on solid ground for a while.” Admiral Croft smiled at his wife.
“Not that I would argue with him if he chose to remain on a ship,” Mrs. Croft added. “I so love to sail with him.”
Both Sir Walter and Elizabeth were taken aback. His eyes widened, and hers narrowed. After collecting himself, Sir Walter said, “Certainly you do not mean that you go out to sea with your husband!”
Mrs. Croft nodded enthusiastically. “Oh, yes! I prefer to be at his side than not.” She smiled and took her husband’s hand. “There is a joy and freedom found out in the great seas that one would hardly find elsewhere.”
“But the dangers…” began Elizabeth.
“The sun, storms, nay, all the elements at work against you!” added Sir Walter.
Mrs. Croft smiled. “I feel safer with my husband at sea than on the shores without him.”
“Indeed,” Sir Walter said, as he began looking at Mrs. Croft with a critical eye, looking for evidence of aging before her years.
“Shall we take a look around?” Mr. Shepherd quickly interjected. “We shall show you the rooms that will remain open to you.” He then turned to Sir Walter. “And I did already advise them that there are restrictions in the use of the pleasure-grounds and flower garden.”
Sir Walter nodded his head. “Good.”
Miss Elliot led the way, performing her duties as Mistress of Kellynch quite admirably, despite loathing the whole affair. She was proud of the great manor, yet both she and her father had struggled with the whole notion of leaving their home in the hands of someone quite unbeknownst to them. She consoled herself with the reminder that living in Bath would have its advantages.
Admiral and Mrs. Croft were very kind in their compliments to the home and the care the Elliots had obviously taken in it. They were both very polite and well-bred, which pleased Sir Walter immensely.
As they moved through a rather long and wide hallway, Sir Walter stopped at one of the
In an almost apologetic manner Sir Walter stated, “I hope you do not mind, but we shall be taking some of these mirrors. Our place in Bath has but two, and they are both rather small and discolored. I hope it will be of no inconvenience to you.”
“Oh, not at all!” Admiral Croft laughed. “The less I have to see of myself, the happier I am!” He turned to his wife. “Now, Sophie is much more pleasant to look at and would likely not turn aside from a looking-glass in passing, but no, we shall not miss them.”
Mrs. Croft smiled at Sir Walter. “You may take all that you desire.”
“Good, good!” Sir Walter said, obviously pleased.
After showing them the rooms available to them, they returned to the drawing room to discuss all the terms of the lease. The Crofts expressed how well-pleased they were with all they saw, which gratified Sir Walter beyond measure. He was of the opinion that their appearance – despite eventually being able to make out a little brown in Mrs. Croft’s face – would complement Kellynch suitably.
“We should like to have possession at Michaelmas, if that is agreeable to you,” the admiral said.
Sir Walter slowly nodded his head as he rubbed his jaw. “We shall be leaving for Bath the month before, so that will do splendidly.”
Mr. Shepherd assured them all that his clerks would draw up the papers directly for them to sign.
When the Crofts departed, Sir Walter was pleased that everything had passed off well. He could now set his sights on removing to Bath with Elizabeth and Mrs. Clay. Mr. Shepherd remained to speak with him as the Crofts walked to the carriage.
They were just about to step in, when Admiral Croft stopped and looked back at the house. “Well, Sophie, dearest, do you think we can find anything finer than Kellynch?”
She slipped her arm through her husband’s and a broad smile lit her face. “I think not. It is lovely.”
“But pray, do tell me the truth, dear. Do you truly think we can manage with only half of the mirrors left on the walls?”
Mrs. Croft smiled and patted her husband’s arm. “It shall be a small sacrifice to pay, but I believe I shall manage quite well.”
The admiral and his wife both laughed as they stepped into the carriage and waited for Mr. Shepherd.