Jane Austen, Persuasion: Ch. 3

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It seemed as if Mr Shepherd, in this anxiety to bespeak Sir Walter's good will towards a naval officer as tenant, had been gifted with foresight; for the very first application for the house was from an Admiral Croft, with whom he shortly afterwards fell into company in attending the quarter sessions at Taunton;h and indeed, he had received a hint of the Admiral from a London correspondent. By the report which he hastened over to Kellynch to make, Admiral Croft was a native of Somersetshire, who having acquired a very handsome fortune, was wishing to settle in his own country, and had come down to Taunton in order to look at some advertised places in that immediate neighbourhood, which, however, had not suited him; that accidentally hearing--(it was just as he had foretold, Mr Shepherd observed, Sir Walter's concerns could not be kept a secret,)--accidentally hearing of the possibility of Kellynch Hall being to let, and understanding his (Mr Shepherd's) connection with the owner, he had introduced himself to him in order to make particular 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 by description could feel; and given Mr Shepherd, in his explicit account of himself, 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 a place; and Anne, after the little pause which followed, added--

"He is a rear admiral of the white.h He was in the Trafalgar action,h and has been in the East Indies since; he was stationed there, I believe, several years."

"Then I take it for granted," observed Sir Walter, "that his face is about as orange 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 make the smallest difficulty about terms, only wanted a comfortable home, and to get into it as soon as possible; knew he must pay for his convenience; knew what rent a ready-furnished house of that consequence might fetch; should not have been surprised if Sir Walter had asked more; had inquired about the manor;w would be glad of the deputation,w certainly, but made no great point of it; 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 of the Admiral's family, which made him peculiarly desirable as a tenant. He was a married man, and without children; the very state to be wished for. A house was never taken good care of, Mr Shepherd observed, without a lady: he did not know, whether furniture might not be in danger of suffering as much where there was no lady, as where there were many children. A lady, without a family, was the very best preserver of furniture in the world. He had seen Mrs Croft, too; she was at Taunton with the admiral, and had been present almost all the time they were talking the matter over.

"And a very well-spoken, genteel, shrewd lady, she seemed to be," continued he; "asked more questions about the house, and terms, and taxes, than the Admiral himself, and seemed more conversant with business; and moreover, Sir Walter, I found she was not quite unconnected in this country, any more than her husband; that is to say, she is sister to a gentleman who did live amongst us once; she told me so herself: sister to the gentleman who lived a few years back at Monkford. Bless me! what was his name? At this moment I cannot recollect his name, though I have heard it so lately. Penelope, my dear, can you help me to the name of the gentleman who lived at Monkford: Mrs Croft's brother?"

But Mrs Clay was talking so eagerly with Miss Elliot, that she did not hear the appeal.

X [h] quarter sessions at Taunton;

Custom & Law

Trials for serious offenses, held four times a year in a major market town by professional judges who traveled on a circuit. These were cases whose complexity and punishment were outside the scope of local magistrates, who, though squires or even grandees, remained legal amateurs.

Taunton is the county town for Somersetshire.

 

X [h] rear admiral of the white.

Military

The fleet was divided into three sub-fleets, the whites, blues, and reds. 

X [h] the Trafalgar action,

Military

Nelson at Trafalgar, 1802, was the decisive naval battle of the Napoleonic wars and one of Great Britain's grand triumphs.

X [w] manor;

Places

OED: "A mansion or country residence; the principal house of an estate, spec. (in Law) that occupied by the owner of the estate.

Originally (in Feudal Law): a unit of English territorial organization, consisting of the lands belonging to or under the jurisdiction of a feudal lord. Later: an estate in land consisting of demesnes and services. Now: the demesne (if any) of a lord together with the lands from whose holders the lord may exact certain fees, etc."

 

X [w] deputation,

Custom & Law

Deputizing. The assignment to the Admiral of the hunting rights that went with the estate.