The visit of ceremony was paid and returned…
“Now, Elizabeth, you have your watch, dangling from your chatelaine, have you not?” said Sir Walter Elliot. “For we by no means wish to overstay this call. A quarter of an hour I deem quite sufficient to spend with such people as the Crofts.”
“I think ten minutes,” answered Elizabeth. “I do not see why we go at all. Such people! When once we have called upon them, they will return the meeting, and we will be obliged to be seeing them for ever. And who are they, to deserve such an honour as that?”
“I quite agree with you on that point,” her father said. “They are nobody, indeed. In Town there would be no occasion to know them in the least. But in Bath, any neglect would be marked, and I would not offend the Admiral.”
“Oh, certainly not. But I am sure they do not desire the acquaintance any more than we do. They must know that we are intimate with Lady Dalrymple, and they cannot feel easy with us. A mere dirty sailor!”
“And I really do not see how I can gaze at that leathery countenance of his hideous wife for more than fifteen minutes.”
“They are not even well bred. They walk out together, rain or shine, never employing a carriage, or heeding however muddy or wet it is. Barely genteel. I wish we may not be seen by any body who matters, near their lodgings.”
“All this is true, Elizabeth, but you forget, a gentleman must pay a certain amount of polite respect to his tenant. Recollect that in Bath, Admiral Croft is principally known as my tenant. That is his only claim to notice, but I hope I know what is due to him on that score.”
Anne disliked entering into an argument with her father and sister, but felt she could not listen to the Crofts, whom she really liked, being abused any longer.
“I came to know them a little better, when I was staying with Lady Russell,” she ventured. “Admiral Croft and his wife were always very pleasant in their manners, and especially gracious when I visited them at Kellynch-hall. They were all consideration for my feelings.”
“Gracious! Anne,” exclaimed Elizabeth, “I don’t know how you could visit our old home with those coarse people in it. I am sure I could have never borne such a thing. But elegance is a requirement with me. You are able to tolerate lowness much better, I have observed.”
“I think they are nice people enough,” ventured Mrs. Clay, from the rear seat of the carriage. “And their appearance is not so very bad.”
“My dear Mrs. Clay, do not try to put a good face upon it!” Sir Walter expostulated. “I hate the very idea of a rugged, bald sailor in my place, in my house. But the thing had to be done, and,” he added with a melancholy shake of his handsome head, “this visit must be paid. We must not be snobbish, Elizabeth.”
She snorted, and said no more. The carriage pulled up at the Crofts’ perfectly unexceptionable lodgings in Gay-street, and the gentleman and ladies alighted.
The call was short indeed, lasting between twelve and thirteen minutes by Elizabeth’s watch. The Crofts were all civility, most anxious that each of their visitors had the seat they liked. Mrs. Croft offered tea and biscuits, and Anne would have liked to accept, but her father assured her that they had breakfasted largely, and could take nothing more.
The subject of Kellynch was naturally raised. “I am sure,” Elizabeth said with an affected smile, “that you must miss your new home.”
“Oh, aye, that we do,” the Admiral assured her heartily. “It is the best house in the whole neighborhood, as to be sure you know very well yourselves; and we are comfortable, most comfortable, are we not, Sophy? And we have changed things around very little. You would not stare, if you came to see us, and wonder where you were.”
“Yes, very comfortable,” Mrs. Croft agreed. “After a life spent so much at sea, to live in an elegant, modern house is pleasant. It is also a great benefit to be able to entertain my brothers, when they visit. Frederick is visiting Edward at the moment, but when we go back to Kellynch, he will come and stay with us.”
“If you pay another visit with Lady Russell, you will see him, Miss Anne,” remarked the Admiral. “And I hope you will enjoy the acquaintance. Frederick always speaks highly of you.”
Anne felt a thrill running through her whole body, and wondered when he had had occasion to discuss her with Admiral and Mrs. Croft, and what he had said. “Does he?” was all she could say.
“Yes, and if he wasn’t going to marry that flighty-headed Miss – what is her name? That Musgrove girl – “
“Louisa Musgrove,” supplied Mrs. Croft calmly. “And nothing has been settled.”
“Well, if that doesn’t come off, I can tell you frankly, Miss Anne, I’d rather see you as our new sister. There is something more in you to our mind. But there’s no accounting for taste.”
“My dear, Frederick is capable of making his own choice,” reproved Mrs. Croft, “and you are embarrassing Miss Anne.”
“Am I? Bless me, I would not do that for the world. Do pardon me, I know I am a blunderer. But really I think we ought to have you to stay. Frederick would like you, I am sure of that.”
His wife patted his knee. “It is not for us to be match-makers,” she said. “Depend upon it, a man of thirty, can make up his own mind.”
“True, true, very true,” he nodded. “You have all the sense belonging to the two of us, Sophy.”
Elizabeth had been restless for the last few minutes, disliking the discussion of Anne as a marriageable young woman, and not herself, as well as the reference to Captain Wentworth. She gave her father a pointed look. He took the hint, and rose to his feet in stately fashion.
“I am afraid, Admiral and Mrs. Croft, that the regrettably high number of our engagements must take us away. But we hope to see you again, here in Bath, and our best wishes for your good health.” He bowed, with his accustomed elegance.
After they departed, Admiral Croft heaved a sigh. “Strewth! That was heavy going,” he exclaimed. “Save me from the Baronet. I am sure he is a very good sort of a man, but I confess I find him wearisome.”
Mrs. Croft did not disagree, but mentioned Anne. “However we feel about the others in the family, I do share your liking for Miss Anne,” she observed. “I think she is a sensible, superior young woman. But I wish you had not embarrassed her about Frederick. She looked quite out of countenance.”
“Well, to say the truth, I was wanting to put an idea of him into her head,” he said shrewdly. “Between you and me, Sophy, I think Frederick likes her. I do indeed. And I’m of your mind, that she would be an acquisition to our family. We need not see Sir Walter very often, you know.”
“That is true,” Mrs. Croft said thoughtfully.
Want to refresh your memory with Jane’s Austen’s original work? Read Persuasion on Austen variations HERE.