On the morning appointed for Admiral and Mrs Croft's seeing Kellynch Hall, Anne found it most natural to take her almost daily walk to Lady Russell's, and keep out of the way till all was over; when she found it most natural t_e sorry that she had missed the opportunity of seeing them.
This meeting of the two parties proved highly satisfactory, and decided th_hole business at once. Each lady was previously well disposed for a_greement, and saw nothing, therefore, but good manners in the other; and wit_egard to the gentlemen, there was such an hearty good humour, such an open, trusting liberality on the Admiral's side, as could not but influence Si_alter, who had besides been flattered into his very best and most polishe_ehaviour by Mr Shepherd's assurances of his being known, by report, to th_dmiral, as a model of good breeding.
The house and grounds, and furniture, were approved, the Crofts were approved, terms, time, every thing, and every body, was right; and Mr Shepherd's clerk_ere set to work, without there having been a single preliminary difference t_odify of all that "This indenture sheweth."
Sir Walter, without hesitation, declared the Admiral to be the best-lookin_ailor he had ever met with, and went so far as to say, that if his own ma_ight have had the arranging of his hair, he should not be ashamed of bein_een with him any where; and the Admiral, with sympathetic cordiality, observed to his wife as they drove back through the park, "I thought we shoul_oon come to a deal, my dear, in spite of what they told us at Taunton. Th_aronet will never set the Thames on fire, but there seems to be no harm i_im." reciprocal compliments, which would have been esteemed about equal.
The Crofts were to have possession at Michaelmas; and as Sir Walter propose_emoving to Bath in the course of the preceding month, there was no time to b_ost in making every dependent arrangement.
Lady Russell, convinced that Anne would not be allowed to be of any use, o_ny importance, in the choice of the house which they were going to secure, was very unwilling to have her hurried away so soon, and wanted to make i_ossible for her to stay behind till she might convey her to Bath hersel_fter Christmas; but having engagements of her own which must take her fro_ellynch for several weeks, she was unable to give the full invitation sh_ished, and Anne though dreading the possible heats of September in all th_hite glare of Bath, and grieving to forego all the influence so sweet and s_ad of the autumnal months in the country, did not think that, everythin_onsidered, she wished to remain. It would be most right, and most wise, and, therefore must involve least suffering to go with the others.
Something occurred, however, to give her a different duty. Mary, often _ittle unwell, and always thinking a great deal of her own complaints, an_lways in the habit of claiming Anne when anything was the matter, wa_ndisposed; and foreseeing that she should not have a day's health all th_utumn, entreated, or rather required her, for it was hardly entreaty, to com_o Uppercross Cottage, and bear her company as long as she should want her, instead of going to Bath.
"I cannot possibly do without Anne," was Mary's reasoning; and Elizabeth'_eply was, "Then I am sure Anne had better stay, for nobody will want her i_ath."
To be claimed as a good, though in an improper style, is at least better tha_eing rejected as no good at all; and Anne, glad to be thought of some use, glad to have anything marked out as a duty, and certainly not sorry to hav_he scene of it in the country, and her own dear country, readily agreed t_tay.
This invitation of Mary's removed all Lady Russell's difficulties, and it wa_onsequently soon settled that Anne should not go to Bath till Lady Russel_ook her, and that all the intervening time should be divided betwee_ppercross Cottage and Kellynch Lodge.
So far all was perfectly right; but Lady Russell was almost startled by th_rong of one part of the Kellynch Hall plan, when it burst on her, which was, Mrs Clay's being engaged to go to Bath with Sir Walter and Elizabeth, as _ost important and valuable assistant to the latter in all the business befor_er. Lady Russell was extremely sorry that such a measure should have bee_esorted to at all, wondered, grieved, and feared; and the affront i_ontained to Anne, in Mrs Clay's being of so much use, while Anne could be o_one, was a very sore aggravation.
Anne herself was become hardened to such affronts; but she felt the imprudenc_f the arrangement quite as keenly as Lady Russell. With a great deal of quie_bservation, and a knowledge, which she often wished less, of her father'_haracter, she was sensible that results the most serious to his family fro_he intimacy were more than possible. She did not imagine that her father ha_t present an idea of the kind. Mrs Clay had freckles, and a projecting tooth, and a clumsy wrist, which he was continually making severe remarks upon, i_er absence; but she was young, and certainly altogether well-looking, an_ossessed, in an acute mind and assiduous pleasing manners, infinitely mor_angerous attractions than any merely personal might have been. Anne was s_mpressed by the degree of their danger, that she could not excuse hersel_rom trying to make it perceptible to her sister. She had little hope o_uccess; but Elizabeth, who in the event of such a reverse would be so muc_ore to be pitied than herself, should never, she thought, have reason t_eproach her for giving no warning.
She spoke, and seemed only to offend. Elizabeth could not conceive how such a_bsurd suspicion should occur to her, and indignantly answered for eac_arty's perfectly knowing their situation.
"Mrs Clay," said she, warmly, "never forgets who she is; and as I am rathe_etter acquainted with her sentiments than you can be, I can assure you, tha_pon the subject of marriage they are particularly nice, and that sh_eprobates all inequality of condition and rank more strongly than mos_eople. And as to my father, I really should not have thought that he, who ha_ept himself single so long for our sakes, need be suspected now. If Mrs Cla_ere a very beautiful woman, I grant you, it might be wrong to have her s_uch with me; not that anything in the world, I am sure, would induce m_ather to make a degrading match, but he might be rendered unhappy. But poo_rs Clay who, with all her merits, can never have been reckoned tolerabl_retty, I really think poor Mrs Clay may be staying here in perfect safety.
One would imagine you had never heard my father speak of her persona_isfortunes, though I know you must fifty times. That tooth of her's and thos_reckles. Freckles do not disgust me so very much as they do him. I have know_ face not materially disfigured by a few, but he abominates them. You mus_ave heard him notice Mrs Clay's freckles."
"There is hardly any personal defect," replied Anne, "which an agreeabl_anner might not gradually reconcile one to."
"I think very differently," answered Elizabeth, shortly; "an agreeable manne_ay set off handsome features, but can never alter plain ones. However, at an_ate, as I have a great deal more at stake on this point than anybody else ca_ave, I think it rather unnecessary in you to be advising me."
Anne had done; glad that it was over, and not absolutely hopeless of doin_ood. Elizabeth, though resenting the suspicion, might yet be made observan_y it.
The last office of the four carriage-horses was to draw Sir Walter, Mis_lliot, and Mrs Clay to Bath. The party drove off in very good spirits; Si_alter prepared with condescending bows for all the afflicted tenantry an_ottagers who might have had a hint to show themselves, and Anne walked up a_he same time, in a sort of desolate tranquility, to the Lodge, where she wa_o spend the first week.
Her friend was not in better spirits than herself. Lady Russell felt thi_reak-up of the family exceedingly. Their respectability was as dear to her a_er own, and a daily intercourse had become precious by habit. It was painfu_o look upon their deserted grounds, and still worse to anticipate the ne_ands they were to fall into; and to escape the solitariness and th_elancholy of so altered a village, and be out of the way when Admiral and Mr_roft first arrived, she had determined to make her own absence from hom_egin when she must give up Anne. Accordingly their removal was made together, and Anne was set down at Uppercross Cottage, in the first stage of Lad_ussell's journey.
Uppercross was a moderate-sized village, which a few years back had bee_ompletely in the old English style, containing only two houses superior i_ppearance to those of the yeomen and labourers; the mansion of the squire, with its high walls, great gates, and old trees, substantial and unmodernized, and the compact, tight parsonage, enclosed in its own neat garden, with a vin_nd a pear-tree trained round its casements; but upon the marriage of th_oung 'squire, it had received the improvement of a farm-house elevated into _ottage, for his residence, and Uppercross Cottage, with its veranda, Frenc_indows, and other prettiness, was quite as likely to catch the traveller'_ye as the more consistent and considerable aspect and premises of the Grea_ouse, about a quarter of a mile farther on.
Here Anne had often been staying. She knew the ways of Uppercross as well a_hose of Kellynch. The two families were so continually meeting, so much i_he habit of running in and out of each other's house at all hours, that i_as rather a surprise to her to find Mary alone; but being alone, her bein_nwell and out of spirits was almost a matter of course. Though better endowe_han the elder sister, Mary had not Anne's understanding nor temper. Whil_ell, and happy, and properly attended to, she had great good humour an_xcellent spirits; but any indisposition sunk her completely. She had n_esources for solitude; and inheriting a considerable share of the Ellio_elf-importance, was very prone to add to every other distress that o_ancying herself neglected and ill-used. In person, she was inferior to bot_isters, and had, even in her bloom, only reached the dignity of being "a fin_irl." She was now lying on the faded sofa of the pretty little drawing-room, the once elegant furniture of which had been gradually growing shabby, unde_he influence of four summers and two children; and, on Anne's appearing, greeted her with—
"So, you are come at last! I began to think I should never see you. I am s_ll I can hardly speak. I have not seen a creature the whole morning!"
"I am sorry to find you unwell," replied Anne. "You sent me such a goo_ccount of yourself on Thursday!"
"Yes, I made the best of it; I always do: but I was very far from well at th_ime; and I do not think I ever was so ill in my life as I have been all thi_orning: very unfit to be left alone, I am sure. Suppose I were to be seize_f a sudden in some dreadful way, and not able to ring the bell! So, Lad_ussell would not get out. I do not think she has been in this house thre_imes this summer."
Anne said what was proper, and enquired after her husband. "Oh! Charles is ou_hooting. I have not seen him since seven o'clock. He would go, though I tol_im how ill I was. He said he should not stay out long; but he has never com_ack, and now it is almost one. I assure you, I have not seen a soul thi_hole long morning."
"You have had your little boys with you?"
"Yes, as long as I could bear their noise; but they are so unmanageable tha_hey do me more harm than good. Little Charles does not mind a word I say, an_alter is growing quite as bad."
"Well, you will soon be better now," replied Anne, cheerfully. "You know _lways cure you when I come. How are your neighbours at the Great House?"
"I can give you no account of them. I have not seen one of them to-day, excep_r Musgrove, who just stopped and spoke through the window, but withou_etting off his horse; and though I told him how ill I was, not one of the_ave been near me. It did not happen to suit the Miss Musgroves, I suppose, and they never put themselves out of their way."
"You will see them yet, perhaps, before the morning is gone. It is early."
"I never want them, I assure you. They talk and laugh a great deal too muc_or me. Oh! Anne, I am so very unwell! It was quite unkind of you not to com_n Thursday."
"My dear Mary, recollect what a comfortable account you sent me of yourself!
You wrote in the cheerfullest manner, and said you were perfectly well, and i_o hurry for me; and that being the case, you must be aware that my wish woul_e to remain with Lady Russell to the last: and besides what I felt on he_ccount, I have really been so busy, have had so much to do, that I could no_ery conveniently have left Kellynch sooner."
"Dear me! what can you possibly have to do?"
"A great many things, I assure you. More than I can recollect in a moment; bu_ can tell you some. I have been making a duplicate of the catalogue of m_ather's books and pictures. I have been several times in the garden wit_ackenzie, trying to understand, and make him understand, which of Elizabeth'_lants are for Lady Russell. I have had all my own little concerns to arrange, books and music to divide, and all my trunks to repack, from not havin_nderstood in time what was intended as to the waggons: and one thing I hav_ad to do, Mary, of a more trying nature: going to almost every house in th_arish, as a sort of take-leave. I was told that they wished it. But all thes_hings took up a great deal of time."
"Oh! well!" and after a moment's pause, "but you have never asked me one wor_bout our dinner at the Pooles yesterday."
"Did you go then? I have made no enquiries, because I concluded you must hav_een obliged to give up the party."
"Oh yes! I went. I was very well yesterday; nothing at all the matter with m_ill this morning. It would have been strange if I had not gone."
"I am very glad you were well enough, and I hope you had a pleasant party."
"Nothing remarkable. One always knows beforehand what the dinner will be, an_ho will be there; and it is so very uncomfortable not having a carriage o_ne's own. Mr and Mrs Musgrove took me, and we were so crowded! They are bot_o very large, and take up so much room; and Mr Musgrove always sits forward.
So, there was I, crowded into the back seat with Henrietta and Louise; and _hink it very likely that my illness to-day may be owing to it."
A little further perseverance in patience and forced cheerfulness on Anne'_ide produced nearly a cure on Mary's. She could soon sit upright on the sofa, and began to hope she might be able to leave it by dinner-time. Then, forgetting to think of it, she was at the other end of the room, beautifying _osegay; then, she ate her cold meat; and then she was well enough to propos_ little walk.
"Where shall we go?" said she, when they were ready. "I suppose you will no_ike to call at the Great House before they have been to see you?"
"I have not the smallest objection on that account," replied Anne. "I shoul_ever think of standing on such ceremony with people I know so well as Mrs an_he Miss Musgroves."
"Oh! but they ought to call upon you as soon as possible. They ought to fee_hat is due to you as my sister. However, we may as well go and sit with the_ little while, and when we have that over, we can enjoy our walk."
Anne had always thought such a style of intercourse highly imprudent; but sh_ad ceased to endeavour to check it, from believing that, though there were o_ach side continual subjects of offence, neither family could now do withou_t. To the Great House accordingly they went, to sit the full half hour in th_ld-fashioned square parlour, with a small carpet and shining floor, to whic_he present daughters of the house were gradually giving the proper air o_onfusion by a grand piano-forte and a harp, flower-stands and little table_laced in every direction. Oh! could the originals of the portraits agains_he wainscot, could the gentlemen in brown velvet and the ladies in blue sati_ave seen what was going on, have been conscious of such an overthrow of al_rder and neatness! The portraits themselves seemed to be staring i_stonishment.
The Musgroves, like their houses, were in a state of alteration, perhaps o_mprovement. The father and mother were in the old English style, and th_oung people in the new. Mr and Mrs Musgrove were a very good sort of people; friendly and hospitable, not much educated, and not at all elegant. Thei_hildren had more modern minds and manners. There was a numerous family; bu_he only two grown up, excepting Charles, were Henrietta and Louisa, youn_adies of nineteen and twenty, who had brought from school at Exeter all th_sual stock of accomplishments, and were now like thousands of other youn_adies, living to be fashionable, happy, and merry. Their dress had ever_dvantage, their faces were rather pretty, their spirits extremely good, thei_anner unembarrassed and pleasant; they were of consequence at home, an_avourites abroad. Anne always contemplated them as some of the happies_reatures of her acquaintance; but still, saved as we all are, by som_omfortable feeling of superiority from wishing for the possibility o_xchange, she would not have given up her own more elegant and cultivated min_or all their enjoyments; and envied them nothing but that seemingly perfec_ood understanding and agreement together, that good-humoured mutua_ffection, of which she had known so little herself with either of he_isters.
They were received with great cordiality. Nothing seemed amiss on the side o_he Great House family, which was generally, as Anne very well knew, the leas_o blame. The half hour was chatted away pleasantly enough; and she was not a_ll surprised at the end of it, to have their walking party joined by both th_iss Musgroves, at Mary's particular invitation.