“My, my, my! He’s a handsome one,” Molly, the kitchen maid said, collapsing into her bed in the attic of Kellynch Hall.
“Who’s handsome?” the scullery maid asked as she undressed for bed.
“Why Commander Wentworth, of course! Miss Anne’s suitor. He’s been at table every night for a week! There’d be no other reason for his coming here all day, every day, if it weren’t for Miss Anne. Besides, I seen how he looks at her. I hope someday Jemmy Bishop looks at me that way.”
“Would the commander not be coming here for Miss Elliot, she being the oldest?”
“I can’t imagine anyone coming for Miss Elliot,“ Molly said, giving the younger servant a wink. “Truth to tell, no one would be good enough for her.”
“Do you really think that?” fourteen-year-old Nancy asked Molly, her senior by two years, as she climbed into their shared bed.
“It’s not me who thinks it, but Miss Elliot, and so does Sir Walter.”
“Aye. That’s true enough. Miss Elliot’s the apple of her father’s eye.”
“That’s because she’s the prettiest of the girls, and that man likes pretty. On Sunday, after church, keep an eye on Sir Walter. Before he gets in the carriage, he always looks in the window, checking his cravat or giving his hair a toss. The man can’t never walk by a looking glass without picking it up and admiring what he sees in it.”
Nancy giggled. “Men aren’t supposed to be pretty. They’re supposed to be handsome. And Commander Wentworth is one handsome man!”
“But he’ll not be good enough for Miss Elliot. In her mind, only a man with a title is worthy of her hand, and Commander Wentworth ain’t got one.”
“Do you think Miss Anne is in love with the commander?”
“I ain’t seen Miss Anne this happy since I come here, and that’s four years now. She’s got sunshine in her smiles and a twinkle in her eyes. And if that ain’t love, then I don’t know what is.” Then Molly went quiet. “What I don’t know is what Sir Walter will say if the commander asks if he can marry her.”
A wide-eyed Nancy asked if Molly really thought Sir Walter would actually say ‘no’ to an officer serving in His Majesty’s Navy.
“I’m afraid so,” Molly answered, concern inching into her voice. “The master said something to Lady Russell that Commander Wentworth was too brown for his tastes.”
“Too brown! What does that mean?”
“Sir Walter said that the commander was well on his way to becoming a walnut just like Admiral Baldwin, whoever he is when he’s at home. He said sea-faring men are knocked about in all kinds of weather until they’re not fit to be seen—or at least that’s what Tom said from listening when he was waiting at table.”
“If Miss Anne loves Commander Wentworth, I hope she gets to marry him. She’s been ever so nice to me. When I was here just a few days, she asked how I was getting on with Mrs. Brooks. Of course, I didn’t tell her that Cook works us pretty hard. What’s important is that she thought to ask. No one has ever done that before.”
“And if you don’t hear it from Miss Anne, you never will hear it,” Molly said. “If he’s going to make her an offer, Commander Wentworth will have to do it soon. From what Tom said, he’s only just waiting to be given a ship before he’s off.”
“If they get married, will he take Miss Anne with him?”
“First things first, Nancy. He’s got to get past Sir Walter, and Lady Russell will have a say as well. She always does.”
“You’d best be careful that no one hears you talking about the master or Lady Russell like that. You’ll be in trouble.”
“I’d be in more than trouble. I’d get the boot right in my backside. And when I got home, I’d be in even more trouble. My father would take a switch to me for losing my place.” Molly turned on her side and asked Nancy to blow out the candle. “Five o’clock comes early.”
Comments are always appreciated. I have written a Persuasion “what if,” Captain Wentworth Home from the Sea. It is available for $2.99 on Nook and Kindle. Here is a summary: In 1806, Frederick Wentworth returned to the sea in hopes of leaving behind memories of Anne Elliot of Kellynch Hall. After eight years serving as the captain of the Laconia, he has failed to jettison recollections of the only woman he could ever love, that is, until a shipboard accident robs him of his memory. When he is once again thrown into Anne’s company, he knows nothing of their previous engagement. With the slate wiped clean, will Anne Elliot be able to secure the love of Captain Frederick Wentworth or will all opportunities to reclaim a lost love be denied her?