Captain Wentworth visits with his sister, Mrs. Croft, and seeks her advice. Finch, the butler at Kellynch, cannot resist listening in.
Finch, the elderly butler, was not at all unhappy with the new master and mistress of Kellynch. In fact, he was quite pleased. Sir Walter had offered him the choice of going to Bath with the family or staying here. After taking one look at the Crofts during their visit to view Kellynch, the decision had been an easy one. Although at first he had experienced a few moments of trepidation about staying on at the great house, in the end he knew he had chosen well. The Crofts were fine people who treated the house and the servants with kindness and respect. Even the admiral, who was undoubtedly accustomed to barking out orders on his ship, was more considerate that Sir Walter and Miss Elliot. Finch had definitely had enough of Sir Walter and Miss Elliot’s vain and self-serving ways. Besides, he had never liked Bath.
In response to a rap at the front door, Finch straightened his jacket and cravat and then opened the door to Captain Wentworth.
“Good afternoon, sir.”
Finch remembered Mrs. Croft’s brother quite clearly from nearly eight years ago, and from something the captain had said when he arrived a few weeks ago, he was fairly certain the captain remembered him, too. Finch knew what almost no one else did—this tall quiet man was Miss Anne’s first love. If the engagement had not been broken, Anne might be the mistress of her own house by now and the mother of several children. How he would love to see Miss Anne with children! She would be a wonderful parent—just like her own mother hand been.
“Mrs. Croft is expecting you, sir, and asked that I show you in to the sitting room when you arrive. I believe she is writing letters. If you will follow me.”
“You know I could show myself to the sitting room.”
Finch gave him a stern look.
“Very well, lead on. Propriety must be observed and all that,” said Wentworth, quirking a smile.
Finch knocked gently on the sitting room door, which had been left ajar, and waited for Mrs. Croft’s reply.
“Mrs. Croft, Captain Wentworth has arrived. May I show him in?”
“Of course! You never need to ask to admit him.” She set aside her pen. “And would you please bring tea with some biscuits or scones? Whatever is freshly baked today.”
“Yes, madam.” Finch had not heard a “please” or “thank you” from anyone other than Miss Anne since Lady Elliot had died years ago. Of course, not many employers bothered to be so polite to their servants, but still, once one had become accustomed to that occasional little nicety, it was greatly missed. Miss Anne was so like her mother in that way. She was everything her father and sisters were not.
Almost immediately, Sadie appeared from the kitchen carrying the tea tray and went in to the parlor to deliver it. When she exited a minute later, her face was scrunched up in a scowl.
“What is wrong, girl?” Finch asked. He had stayed in the hallway pretending to fuss over one of the pictures so he would have an excuse to be nearby.
“Mistress wants the raspberry jam.”
“You forgot the jam?” He could not keep the stern accusatory tone from creeping into his voice.
“It t’weren’t me. It were that silly kitchen girl, Molly. All she can think about these days is…” She put her hand over her mouth as if she could physically stop the flow of words. “Oh, I should not have said anything.”
He chose to ignore the remark. He already knew Molly was so enamored with Tom, one of the junior footmen, that her work had been suffering of late. Finch would be talking to the housekeeper and the cook about that very soon. “Do not put it off on someone else. You should have checked before you left the kitchen. You know it is your job to make sure the tray is complete.”
Sadie scowled again and looked at the floor. “Yes, sir.” At that, she scurried off in the direction of the kitchen.
Finch could not resist drifting to a spot near the open door. It was, after all, part of his job to keep an eye on everything that went on in the house. Who knew what valuable information he might overhear that would allow him to make the new residents more comfortable? At least that was what he told himself. In truth, the older man simply loved gossip—not that he ever repeated it, of course.
“Sophie, I was hoping to ask your advice about something.” Finch heard Captain Wentworth’s deep voice. Other than the mantle clock, the only other sound was the clink of the china and the sound of tea being poured.
“What is on your mind, Frederick?”
“You have met both the Musgrove girls. What do you think of them?”
Silence. “Would you like milk and sugar in your tea?” Mrs. Croft inquired.
“I see that eyebrow raising thing you always do when you are uncertain of what to say,” replied her brother. The sound of a silver spoon against china, stirring the tea.
A chuckle from Mrs. Croft. “Frederick, it does not always mean something.”
“Of course, it does. Out with it, Sophie.”
A soft feminine sigh. “They are very pleasant young ladies.”
“But? I hear a “but” hanging out there.”
Another decidedly female chuckle. “May I assume your question has more weight than just making conversation?”
“Hmm…well, I suppose you may.”
“Are you thinking about making an offer of marriage to one of them?”
“I am not prying, Frederick. You did ask my opinion after all.”
The click of boots on the wooden floors. Finch backed away a bit to ensure no one saw him by the door.
“It is possible, but much too early to tell. I know I cannot wait too much longer if I wish to marry. Who knows how long this peace will last?”
“Very well.” The distinct intake of breath. “They are very pleasant young ladies.”
Finch noted the definite emphasis on the word “young.”
Silence and the sound of a cup being returned to its saucer. “So you think they are too fresh from the schoolroom?” Captain Wentworth’s voice was deep and mellow.
At this point, Finch heard Sadie returning, so he moved away from the door and waited for her to leave again. He heard the muffled sound of voices and Sadie exited, this time with a smile on her face. As soon as she disappeared, Finch returned to his post near the doorway.
“The Musgroves are very pleasant people. The girls are lively and pretty,” said the captain.
“I think a young lady needs more to recommend her than a pleasant family and a pretty face. Can you seriously see yourself married to one of those girls? I grant you they are amiable, but whatever would you talk about once you had exhausted the topic of the navy and whether you want lamb or beef for supper?”
Masculine throat clearing. “I think it is time I married, and I have had little opportunity to meet eligible young ladies other than the wives and a few sisters and daughters of other officers.”
“I do wish you would attempt to acquaint yourself with more ladies. For comparison, I mean. More tea?”
“Yes, thank you. And just where do you suggest I look, Sophie?” The sound of tea being poured and again the clink of a spoon against china.
“There are other young ladies in the neighborhood.”
“None that I have met.” The captain almost sounded discouraged.
Finch’s ears perked up when he heard Miss Anne’s name. Apparently, Mrs. Croft did not know about her brother’s very short-lived engagement to that young lady.
A deep masculine sigh. “She probably considers herself a bit above my station.”
“Nonsense! Miss Anne is not so concerned with such things as are the other members of her family,” said Mrs. Croft. “I like her.”
“I do not think she would suit,” the captain said firmly.
Just then Finch heard footsteps at the front door. It must be Admiral Croft returning. Unfortunately, this meant no more opportunity to hear what the captain thought of Miss Anne. He wondered, not for the first time, what had gone wrong to cause Miss Anne to break off her engagement to the captain. He would perfectly suit an intelligent and warm young lady like her.
He could only guess it must have been something Lady Russell had said. She fancied herself taking the role of Miss Anne’s mother in such matters. Finch did not approve. Lady Elliot and Lady Russell may have been great friends, but there was no comparison between them. Lady Elliot was superior in understanding in every way. His chest swelled with pride as he recalled the day Lady Elliot had hired him. Nothing had been the same at Kellynch since she died. She was everything a true lady should be—just like Miss Anne.
Finch did not have time to ponder that now. He could hear someone coming up the drive, and he needed to be at the door when they arrived. Putting a pleasant look on his face, he opened the door. “Good afternoon, Admiral. How was your visit with the vicar, sir?”
Want to refresh your memory with Jane’s Austen’s original work? Read Persuasion on Austen variations HERE.