Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage.
“Do read it again, Elizabeth,” Sir Walter said to his eldest daughter as she cradled her father’s favorite book in her hands.
“John Walter Elliot, born April 6, 1730. Married, June 12, 1758, Margaret, daughter of Thomas Masterson, Esq. of Brookhaven, in the county of Wiltshire, by which lady, he has issue. Walter, born March 1, 1760. Married, July 15, 1784, Elizabeth, daughter of James Stevenson, Esq. of South Park, in the county of Gloucester. Principal seat, Kellynch Hall, in the county of Somerset. Heir presumptive, William Walter Elliot, Esq., great grandson of the second Sir Walter.”
Sir Walter delighted in his daughter’s reading, not only for the content, but because of the slight lisp Elizabeth had whenever she pronounced “Somerset,” Stevenson,” “South Park,” and “esquire,” an articulation that only served to enhance the reading of his family’s history.
“One more time, dear,” Sir Walter said.
“No, Papa. It is time for me to arrange your curls.”
A month earlier, Sir Walter’s valet had left his position at Kellynch, the seat of a baronetcy, to serve in the house of the owner of a shipyard in dreary Devon. The man who had replaced Thomas was adequate in most regards, but could not arrange his master’s hair to save his life. That task now fell to his eldest daughter.
“You should have tried harder to keep Thomas,” Elizabeth said, tapping her father gently on the shoulder with his comb.
“Unfortunately, Thomas had to go,“ he said, pouting. “All he ever did was rattle on about his wages and holes in his stockings and holes in his nightshirt and holes in his shoe leather. He was positively tedious.”
“Yes, but he could do your hair to your satisfaction.”
“I admit as much, but the price was too high, Elizabeth. His whining unsettled me. I think he must be part Irish. That race is always complaining about something. Besides, the new man will eventually learn to do it.”
As Elizabeth shaped the curls framing her father’s brow, she thought what a handsome man he was. Although her late mother was considered to be attractive, Elizabeth understood that her excellent good looks came through the paternal line. While looking at her dearest Papa in the mirror, she noted her own good looks and thought how they contrasted with her younger sister’s.
If only Anne looked more like me, she might yet find a husband. Instead, there is every indication she will never marry and prove to be a drain on the family resources. But who will have her with her drab hair and dull skin. If she spent more time at her toilette, she might appear, given the proper light, to be marginally attractive. There is also the matter of her choice of attire. If only she would take my advice and select the finest silks for her dresses and employ the services of my modiste, she might attract someone. Charles Musgrove would have done for her.
“What is going on inside that pretty head of yours, Elizabeth?” her father demanded. “I can hear the wheels spinning.”
“I was thinking how very dull Anne is.”
“Do you mean in appearance or demeanor?”
“Both. Neither her looks nor conversation sparkle.”
Her father nodded in agreement but then produced a look of puzzlement. “However, there was a time when she was quite pretty and rather witty, but she has changed, and I agree, not for the better. I wonder what happened?”
Elizabeth shrugged, the subject no longer of interest to her. After placing the comb on her father’s dressing table, she declared him to be the most handsome man in the shire.
“I agree. And you are the most beautiful woman in the county.”
“Just the county, Papa? How limiting,” she said with a laugh.
Sir Walter stood up and extended his hand to his daughter. “Shall we to breakfast? Mr. Ruggles, the carriage maker, is to arrive later this morning.”
“Oh, a new carriage!” Elizabeth exclaimed. “I just love the smell of new leather.”
Currently, I am in San Diego with my granddaughter. Although I may not be able to respond to your comments, I do enjoy reading them.