"I must take leave to observe, Sir Walter," said Mr Shepherd one morning a_ellynch Hall, as he laid down the newspaper, "that the present juncture i_uch in our favour. This peace will be turning all our rich naval officer_shore. They will be all wanting a home. Could not be a better time, Si_alter, for having a choice of tenants, very responsible tenants. Many a nobl_ortune has been made during the war. If a rich admiral were to come in ou_ay, Sir Walter—"
"He would be a very lucky man, Shepherd," replied Sir Walter; "that's all _ave to remark. A prize indeed would Kellynch Hall be to him; rather th_reatest prize of all, let him have taken ever so many before; hey, Shepherd?"
Mr Shepherd laughed, as he knew he must, at this wit, and then added—
"I presume to observe, Sir Walter, that, in the way of business, gentlemen o_he navy are well to deal with. I have had a little knowledge of their method_f doing business; and I am free to confess that they have very libera_otions, and are as likely to make desirable tenants as any set of people on_hould meet with. Therefore, Sir Walter, what I would take leave to sugges_s, that if in consequence of any rumours getting abroad of your intention;
which must be contemplated as a possible thing, because we know how difficul_t is to keep the actions and designs of one part of the world from the notic_nd curiosity of the other; consequence has its tax; I, John Shepherd, migh_onceal any family-matters that I chose, for nobody would think it worth thei_hile to observe me; but Sir Walter Elliot has eyes upon him which it may b_ery difficult to elude; and therefore, thus much I venture upon, that it wil_ot greatly surprise me if, with all our caution, some rumour of the trut_hould get abroad; in the supposition of which, as I was going to observe,
since applications will unquestionably follow, I should think any from ou_ealthy naval commanders particularly worth attending to; and beg leave t_dd, that two hours will bring me over at any time, to save you the trouble o_eplying."
Sir Walter only nodded. But soon afterwards, rising and pacing the room, h_bserved sarcastically—
"There are few among the gentlemen of the navy, I imagine, who would not b_urprised to find themselves in a house of this description."
"They would look around them, no doubt, and bless their good fortune," sai_rs Clay, for Mrs Clay was present: her father had driven her over, nothin_eing of so much use to Mrs Clay's health as a drive to Kellynch: "but I quit_gree with my father in thinking a sailor might be a very desirable tenant. _ave known a good deal of the profession; and besides their liberality, the_re so neat and careful in all their ways! These valuable pictures of yours,
Sir Walter, if you chose to leave them, would be perfectly safe. Everything i_nd about the house would be taken such excellent care of! The gardens an_hrubberies would be kept in almost as high order as they are now. You nee_ot be afraid, Miss Elliot, of your own sweet flower gardens being neglected."
"As to all that," rejoined Sir Walter coolly, "supposing I were induced to le_y house, I have by no means made up my mind as to the privileges to b_nnexed to it. I am not particularly disposed to favour a tenant. The par_ould be open to him of course, and few navy officers, or men of any othe_escription, can have had such a range; but what restrictions I might impos_n the use of the pleasure-grounds, is another thing. I am not fond of th_dea of my shrubberies being always approachable; and I should recommend Mis_lliot to be on her guard with respect to her flower garden. I am very littl_isposed to grant a tenant of Kellynch Hall any extraordinary favour, I assur_ou, be he sailor or soldier."
After a short pause, Mr Shepherd presumed to say—
"In all these cases, there are established usages which make everything plai_nd easy between landlord and tenant. Your interest, Sir Walter, is in prett_afe hands. Depend upon me for taking care that no tenant has more than hi_ust rights. I venture to hint, that Sir Walter Elliot cannot be half s_ealous for his own, as John Shepherd will be for him."
Here Anne spoke—
"The navy, I think, who have done so much for us, have at least an equal clai_ith any other set of men, for all the comforts and all the privileges whic_ny home can give. Sailors work hard enough for their comforts, we must al_llow."
"Very true, very true. What Miss Anne says, is very true," was Mr Shepherd'_ejoinder, and "Oh! certainly," was his daughter's; but Sir Walter's remar_as, soon afterwards—
"The profession has its utility, but I should be sorry to see any friend o_ine belonging to it."
"Indeed!" was the reply, and with a look of surprise.
"Yes; it is in two points offensive to me; I have two strong grounds o_bjection to it. First, as being the means of bringing persons of obscur_irth into undue distinction, and raising men to honours which their father_nd grandfathers never dreamt of; and secondly, as it cuts up a man's yout_nd vigour most horribly; a sailor grows old sooner than any other man. I hav_bserved it all my life. A man is in greater danger in the navy of bein_nsulted by the rise of one whose father, his father might have disdained t_peak to, and of becoming prematurely an object of disgust himself, than i_ny other line. One day last spring, in town, I was in company with two men,
striking instances of what I am talking of; Lord St Ives, whose father we al_now to have been a country curate, without bread to eat; I was to give plac_o Lord St Ives, and a certain Admiral Baldwin, the most deplorable-lookin_ersonage you can imagine; his face the colour of mahogany, rough and rugge_o the last degree; all lines and wrinkles, nine grey hairs of a side, an_othing but a dab of powder at top. `In the name of heaven, who is that ol_ellow?' said I to a friend of mine who was standing near, (Sir Basil Morley).
`Old fellow!' cried Sir Basil, `it is Admiral Baldwin. What do you take hi_ge to be?' `Sixty,' said I, `or perhaps sixty-two.' `Forty,' replied Si_asil, `forty, and no more.' Picture to yourselves my amazement; I shall no_asily forget Admiral Baldwin. I never saw quite so wretched an example o_hat a sea-faring life can do; but to a degree, I know it is the same wit_hem all: they are all knocked about, and exposed to every climate, and ever_eather, till they are not fit to be seen. It is a pity they are not knocke_n the head at once, before they reach Admiral Baldwin's age."
"Nay, Sir Walter," cried Mrs Clay, "this is being severe indeed. Have a littl_ercy on the poor men. We are not all born to be handsome. The sea is n_eautifier, certainly; sailors do grow old betimes; I have observed it; the_oon lose the look of youth. But then, is not it the same with many othe_rofessions, perhaps most other? Soldiers, in active service, are not at al_etter off: and even in the quieter professions, there is a toil and a labou_f the mind, if not of the body, which seldom leaves a man's looks to th_atural effect of time. The lawyer plods, quite care-worn; the physician is u_t all hours, and travelling in all weather; and even the clergyman—" sh_topt a moment to consider what might do for the clergyman;—"and even th_lergyman, you know is obliged to go into infected rooms, and expose hi_ealth and looks to all the injury of a poisonous atmosphere. In fact, as _ave long been convinced, though every profession is necessary and honourabl_n its turn, it is only the lot of those who are not obliged to follow any,
who can live in a regular way, in the country, choosing their own hours,
following their own pursuits, and living on their own property, without th_orment of trying for more; it is only their lot, I say, to hold the blessing_f health and a good appearance to the utmost: I know no other set of men bu_hat lose something of their personableness when they cease to be quit_oung."
It seemed as if Mr Shepherd, in this anxiety to bespeak Sir Walter's good wil_owards a naval officer as tenant, had been gifted with foresight; for th_ery first application for the house was from an Admiral Croft, with whom h_hortly afterwards fell into company in attending the quarter sessions a_aunton; and indeed, he had received a hint of the Admiral from a Londo_orrespondent. By the report which he hastened over to Kellynch to make,
Admiral Croft was a native of Somersetshire, who having acquired a ver_andsome fortune, was wishing to settle in his own country, and had come dow_o Taunton in order to look at some advertised places in that immediat_eighbourhood, which, however, had not suited him; that accidentall_earing—(it was just as he had foretold, Mr Shepherd observed, Sir Walter'_oncerns could not be kept a secret,)— accidentally hearing of the possibilit_f Kellynch Hall being to let, and understanding his (Mr Shepherd's)
connection with the owner, he had introduced himself to him in order to mak_articular inquiries, and had, in the course of a pretty long conference,
expressed as strong an inclination for the place as a man who knew it only b_escription could feel; and given Mr Shepherd, in his explicit account o_imself, every proof of his being a most responsible, eligible tenant.
"And who is Admiral Croft?" was Sir Walter's cold suspicious inquiry.
Mr Shepherd answered for his being of a gentleman's family, and mentioned _lace; and Anne, after the little pause which followed, added—
"He is a rear admiral of the white. He was in the Trafalgar action, and ha_een in the East Indies since; he was stationed there, I believe, severa_ears."
"Then I take it for granted," observed Sir Walter, "that his face is about a_range as the cuffs and capes of my livery."
Mr Shepherd hastened to assure him, that Admiral Croft was a very hale,
hearty, well-looking man, a little weather-beaten, to be sure, but not much,
and quite the gentleman in all his notions and behaviour; not likely to mak_he smallest difficulty about terms, only wanted a comfortable home, and t_et into it as soon as possible; knew he must pay for his convenience; kne_hat rent a ready-furnished house of that consequence might fetch; should no_ave been surprised if Sir Walter had asked more; had inquired about th_anor; would be glad of the deputation, certainly, but made no great point o_t; said he sometimes took out a gun, but never killed; quite the gentleman.
Mr Shepherd was eloquent on the subject; pointing out all the circumstances o_he Admiral's family, which made him peculiarly desirable as a tenant. He wa_ married man, and without children; the very state to be wished for. A hous_as never taken good care of, Mr Shepherd observed, without a lady: he did no_now, whether furniture might not be in danger of suffering as much wher_here was no lady, as where there were many children. A lady, without _amily, was the very best preserver of furniture in the world. He had seen Mr_roft, too; she was at Taunton with the admiral, and had been present almos_ll the time they were talking the matter over.
"And a very well-spoken, genteel, shrewd lady, she seemed to be," continue_e; "asked more questions about the house, and terms, and taxes, than th_dmiral himself, and seemed more conversant with business; and moreover, Si_alter, I found she was not quite unconnected in this country, any more tha_er husband; that is to say, she is sister to a gentleman who did live amongs_s once; she told me so herself: sister to the gentleman who lived a few year_ack at Monkford. Bless me! what was his name? At this moment I canno_ecollect his name, though I have heard it so lately. Penelope, my dear, ca_ou help me to the name of the gentleman who lived at Monkford: Mrs Croft'_rother?"
But Mrs Clay was talking so eagerly with Miss Elliot, that she did not hea_he appeal.
"I have no conception whom you can mean, Shepherd; I remember no gentlema_esident at Monkford since the time of old Governor Trent."
"Bless me! how very odd! I shall forget my own name soon, I suppose. A nam_hat I am so very well acquainted with; knew the gentleman so well by sight;
seen him a hundred times; came to consult me once, I remember, about _respass of one of his neighbours; farmer's man breaking into his orchard;
wall torn down; apples stolen; caught in the fact; and afterwards, contrary t_y judgement, submitted to an amicable compromise. Very odd indeed!"
After waiting another moment—
"You mean Mr Wentworth, I suppose?" said Anne.
Mr Shepherd was all gratitude.
"Wentworth was the very name! Mr Wentworth was the very man. He had the curac_f Monkford, you know, Sir Walter, some time back, for two or three years.
Came there about the year —5, I take it. You remember him, I am sure."
"Wentworth? Oh! ay,—Mr Wentworth, the curate of Monkford. You misled me by th_erm gentleman. I thought you were speaking of some man of property: M_entworth was nobody, I remember; quite unconnected; nothing to do with th_trafford family. One wonders how the names of many of our nobility become s_ommon."
As Mr Shepherd perceived that this connexion of the Crofts did them no servic_ith Sir Walter, he mentioned it no more; returning, with all his zeal, t_well on the circumstances more indisputably in their favour; their age, an_umber, and fortune; the high idea they had formed of Kellynch Hall, an_xtreme solicitude for the advantage of renting it; making it appear as i_hey ranked nothing beyond the happiness of being the tenants of Sir Walte_lliot: an extraordinary taste, certainly, could they have been supposed i_he secret of Sir Walter's estimate of the dues of a tenant.
It succeeded, however; and though Sir Walter must ever look with an evil ey_n anyone intending to inhabit that house, and think them infinitely too wel_ff in being permitted to rent it on the highest terms, he was talked int_llowing Mr Shepherd to proceed in the treaty, and authorising him to wait o_dmiral Croft, who still remained at Taunton, and fix a day for the hous_eing seen.
Sir Walter was not very wise; but still he had experience enough of the worl_o feel, that a more unobjectionable tenant, in all essentials, than Admira_roft bid fair to be, could hardly offer. So far went his understanding; an_is vanity supplied a little additional soothing, in the Admiral's situatio_n life, which was just high enough, and not too high. "I have let my house t_dmiral Croft," would sound extremely well; very much better than to any mer_r—; a Mr (save, perhaps, some half dozen in the nation,) always needs a not_f explanation. An admiral speaks his own consequence, and, at the same time,
can never make a baronet look small. In all their dealings and intercourse,
Sir Walter Elliot must ever have the precedence.
Nothing could be done without a reference to Elizabeth: but her inclinatio_as growing so strong for a removal, that she was happy to have it fixed an_xpedited by a tenant at hand; and not a word to suspend decision was uttere_y her.
Mr Shepherd was completely empowered to act; and no sooner had such an en_een reached, than Anne, who had been a most attentive listener to the whole,
left the room, to seek the comfort of cool air for her flushed cheeks; and a_he walked along a favourite grove, said, with a gentle sigh, "A few month_ore, and he, perhaps, may be walking here.