With Anne deliberately absent from the manor house, Admiral and Mrs. Croft had toured Kellynch Hall with Mr. Shepherd, the leasing agent, and Sir Walter. Afterwards, the Crofts discuss their reaction.
For a man who made his living by waging war, Mrs. Croft counted her blessings in that her husband possessed a most amiable disposition. During his time in service, the admiral easily got along with everyone from cabin boy to Lord of the Admiralty, and when not at sea, he did well with landlubbers, most of whom would never step into a boat or climb a ship’s ladder, no less experience the feel of an ocean gust, savor the taste of salt in their mouth, or know the loneliness of a world consisting only of sea and sky.
It also helped that the man was not easily insulted as when Sir Walter declared the admiral to be “the best-looking sailor he had ever met with.” The baronet went so far as to say, that if his own man might have had the arranging of his hair, he “should not be ashamed of being seen with him anywhere.” The remark had bounced off the admiral, but had left a mark on his wife. She knew Sir Walter to be a proud man, but then most members of the aristocracy were, and said as much to her husband.
John Croft dismissed her concerns. “It is true the baronet will never set the Thames on fire, but there seems to be no harm in him” was her husband’s conclusion, and Mrs. Croft concurred.
While being shown the manor house and adjacent buildings by Sir Walter, Mrs. Croft had noted thinning carpets, fading curtains, chipped wood on the dining chair legs, fraying cuffs on the servants’ livery, and an understaffed scullery, all evidence that the Elliots were experiencing serious financial difficulties. Even so, after viewing the apartments of the master of the house and his eldest daughter, Mrs. Croft understood that any tightening had not cinched their belts as there were new window coverings and elegant bed covers in the bedchambers of Sir Walter and Miss Elliot. Furthermore, a handsome carriage was housed in the coach house. She could only imagine the cost of such a conveyance and the expenses associated with the horses that pulled it. Even though the manor house’s glory years were in its past, the estate was beautiful and the grounds lovely, requiring few improvements or alterations. In her mind, the admiral’s wife was already settled at Kellynch.
Sophia Croft’s only concern in signing the lease had been that her husband would grow bored in retirement. From the time he was a mere lad, there had not been a day in his life that did not involve seeing to the business of the Royal Navy. However, that was no longer the case. The admiral was now retired with the money earned from taking prize ships sitting in a bank vault in London ready for his use. Fortunately, with the length of the lease being for just the one year, the Crofts would have ample time to find out if a former officer in His Majesty’s Navy was truly capable of living the life of a country squire.
After returning to their rooms at the inn, Sophia asked her husband if it was his intention to learn how to ride once they were settled at Kellynch.
“Ride? Ride what?”
“A horse, of course. Silly man, what else would you ride?” Sophia asked, laughing.
“Dearest Sophie, I have often mentioned that you have a fine seat,” he answered, with eyebrows arched and eyes open wide. “With all the time I’ll have on my hands, I see a lot of riding in our future.“
With a twinkle in her eye, Sophia answered, “Shall we practice?”
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