Commander Wentworth is gone, and the secret is out!
“And where were you, missy?” Molly asked Nancy as she fiddled with the bed covers in their shared attic bedroom.
“Talking to Tom.”
Nancy, the fourteen-year-old kitchen maid, explained that while emptying the kitchen slop buckets, the junior footman had shared news about the family.
“You best be careful, Nancy. What Tom calls ‘talking,’ I call something else,” the wiser sixteen-year-old answered.
As she slipped out of her clothes, and remembering Tom’s hands running up and down her arms, Nancy turned her back to Molly so that her fellow kitchen maid wouldn’t see her blush.
“Tom was just telling me that Miss Anne is not going to marry Commander Wentworth.”
“How would he know such a thing?” Molly asked, shooting upright in bed.
“Miss Anne has no appetite, didn’t touch her pudding, and has looked sad four days running.”
Molly snorted. “Before the commander come here to Kellynch, Miss Anne always looked sad. Nothing odd about that.”
“But Tom said that when he walked by her room, he just so happened to hear Miss Anne crying in her bedchamber.”
“’Just so happened,’ my uncle. Tom had his ear to the door again,” Molly said, shaking her head in disapproval, “and if Mr. Allgood sees him, he won’t have an ear to eavesdrop with. But Miss Anne crying don’t mean nothing. If I had such a family, I’d spend half my day crying. In this house, it’s all about Sir Walter, Miss Elliot, and sometimes Miss Mary. The only time Miss Anne has anyone paying any attention to her is if she’s needed to talk to the grocer about the bills or if someone’s ailing.”
“But that’s not all that Tom had to say. A few days back, he heard Sir Walter complaining to Lady Russell about the poor prospects for a man who depended on his living by taking ships. What does that mean, ‘taking ships’?” Nancy asked. “And what do they do with them once they take them?”
Molly shook her head. She had never given it any thought, but that was one of the few advantages of being a servant: You didn’t have to worry about such things.
“You may be right, Nancy,” Molly said, thinking about something she had heard Mrs. Brooks say to Mr. Allgood about Lady Russell bending Sir Walter’s ear for near an hour before calling Anne into the study. “So that’s what they were up to—sending the commander on his way and breaking Miss Anne’s heart in the bargain.”
Molly now realized that there had been other clues that the commander would not be coming back. The menus had changed—a rare event at Kellynch, usually requiring an Act of Parliament—and Mrs. Brooks had sent word to the butcher that they wouldn’t be needing that leg of lamb after all.
“Do you think Tom got it right?” Nancy asked.
Molly nodded, and she could feel tears forming. In her mind, Miss Anne was the best thing about Kellynch Hall, and for a short time, she had been happy. But it was not meant to be.
“Yeah, Tom got it right,” Molly finally answered, “and Sir Walter and Lady Russell got it wrong. Miss Anne has as much right to be happy as his other two daughters. It’s too bad Sir Walter don’t see it that way.”
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