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Almost Persuaded Chapters 25 and 26

January 14, 2015 04:55PM
AN: Thanks again for comments. I have borrowed from JA's descriptions liberally. We are at the end of our domestic food production lessons. This makes me grateful that I have modern conveniences.

Chapter 25

The middle of August saw an addition to the family circle at South Park, Sophie and Admiral Croft. They had arrived back in England in June and had spent time with his family, then with Edward Wentworth in Monkford. Sophie and Anne had been regular correspondents for the past year, so after visiting Edward, they came to meet Anne. Sir Michael and Lady Matilda invited them to stay in the main house for their visit. They arrived before Mary left for school, so she had an opportunity to meet them as well.

Mrs. Croft, though neither tall nor fat, had a squareness, uprightness, and vigor of form, which gave importance to her person. She had bright dark eyes, good teeth, and altogether an agreeable face. Her reddened and weather-beaten complexion, the consequence of her having been almost as much at sea as her husband, made her seem to have lived some years longer in the world than her real thirty.

The Admiral was a few years her senior. He too was weather-beaten, as he had spent most of his life at sea. However, he was a vigorous, good looking, hearty man usually found smiling. James Croft had met and wooed Sophie Wentworth while on leave and had swept her off her feet, at least from off dry land. Sophie had decided that, in almost every case, she would travel with her husband. She could assist on the ship and they could be together. This had been true for all the years since their marriage. However, his next assignment, in the war zone, she would not join him. She was planning to stay with Edward and keep house for him until her James returned.

Anne found that Sophie Croft was even more engaging in person than in her letters. Their correspondence had been lively and Anne had enjoyed it greatly. In person, Sophie was often witty, but never cruel. She had a discerning eye, and was not shy in voicing her opinions and observations. Lively discussions of the conduct of the war ensued at almost every dinner. James would make an outrageous description of an event they had seen, and she would correct his interpretation. Dinners were filled with laughter; they were both fun-loving people.

Anne had had a suspicion that she would find them lively. Mary had never experienced anyone like the Crofts. They didn’t even care what Kellynch was. What was a Baronetcy to an Admiral? Nothing. Such an attitude was another eye-opener for Mary. She found she enjoyed their company and their humor. The conversation at dinner the first night was illustrative of many.

James complimented South Park, “Sir Michael, you have a very nice place. Nice scenery. Much more room for walking than we are accustomed to.”

Sir Michael replied, “I would imagine that a ship greatly constricts the amount of walking you do.”

James said, “Well, I walk a lot. It is merely in a very confined location. As I say, I do like the variability of walking here.”

Anne added, “And here, you have the option of varying the walk each day. On board ship, I imagine that is not true.”

Sophie answered, “True enough. We walk the quarterdeck and not much more. Of course, in port, we may have a moment to view some of the city. The view in the harbor is often not the best, but with a short carriage ride, we have been to see some very interesting sites.”

James added, “Of course, we do not often get to see such a place as South Park from so personal angle as we are here. We thank you for your kind invitation. Please, tell us something of the history. The stories of the aristocratic families are not something we hear much of at sea. What exactly is the baronetage here anyway? I understand Miss Anne’s father is also a Baronet or something. Can you clarify that for us?”

While Mary was amazed that someone would not actually understand this, Sir Michael graciously explained. At the end of his explanation, James responded, “Well, isn’t that something? Family lines are all important. Not the way of the Navy at all. While who you know can help, if you are not up to it, you can only rise so far. You’re likely to get yourself killed if you cannot care for yourself. Heard too many stories of families needing to find someone to rescue them because they cannot care for themselves. Perhaps the aristocracy needs something like a good war to clear out the bad blood.”

Lady Matilda answered that comment. “I think the current war is doing some of that. Unfortunately, many of the younger sons are more capable than the older. However, the rise of many others, such as yourself, will bring in some of that new blood we so desperately need.”

At the end of August, Sir Michael and Lady Matilda returned Mary to her school. As they were leaving her, Lady Matilda said, “This is your last year. Next summer, you move into the ranks of adults. If you would like, the following winter we will spend March and April in town and give you a season as we did Agatha and Anne. Would you like that?”

Mary replied with a hug, “Oh that would be wonderful. I do not think Father planned to take me to town, so I would truly appreciate it.”

Sir Michael said, “Then, when you get out in June, ask your father to take you to Kellynch. Perhaps your father will have changed and really want you there. If things have not really changed, write and let us know. We will collect you the first of July to live with us instead of with him. You know both of us and your grandmother would love to have you. And you will be on hand when Anne and her Captain finally wed.”

“Thank you. That is what we’ll do then. I can still come for Christmas?”

“Yes, we’ll be back to get you for Christmas.”

With a smile, Mary kissed each one goodbye and went in for her final school year. Mary thought it likely that she would return to South Park rather than remain at Kellynch. There was more to do and it was more interesting than Kellynch. Besides, Anne was still in South Park and she was Mary’s favorite sister.

Shortly after the Stevensons returned home from delivering Mary to school, Frederick was able to join them at South Park. He had a short time back in England and wanted to see Anne before returning to sea. After they were all settled in the parlor with tea, he had quite a tale to tell them.

“We were lucky in capturing a French frigate right before we reached England. My lieutenant, Harville, commanded it back to Plymouth while I was at the helm of the Asp. We were just entering Plymouth harbor when a huge storm that had been threatening for two days finally broke over us. We were barely able to get the Asp secured. The storm was so fierce that the poor Asp was not able to survive. She actually started breaking up at the pier. However, I have been transferred to command of the sloop Laconia and am to report back in two weeks.”

Admiral Croft exclaimed, “Well at least you made it back to port. And your first command too.”

Wentworth replied, “She was a good one. I enjoyed this last year. I am not returning to the Indies, though. I’m off to Gibraltar and the Mediterranean this time. And I was lucky to capture that frigate at the last possible moment. It gives Miss Anne and me an additional prize for investment. I do not expect it to be as large as the previous payout. With any luck, by the time we are ready to wed, we will have a nice cushion of investments. James, do you know where you are going next?”

Croft replied, “I expect to be going to the Baltic. I think the war is heating up in that area. Sophie is going to stay behind this tour. I expect her to join me when I return for my next tour of duty though. I find it hard to be apart from her now. We pull well together.”

Admiral Croft, Wentworth, Lady Rachel, and Sir Michael had an ongoing discussion about the battle of Copenhagen over the course of dinner every night. The Royal Navy had attempted to prevent the Danish and Norwegian navy from surrendering to Napoleon. The attempt failed resulting in an appalling number of non-combatants killed in the engagement and the destruction of the city. Much of the discussion concerned battle strategy and what the ramifications of the loss would be.

Anne and Frederick enjoyed a quiet visit together. They talked of all she had learned to do. She showed him the bounty in the cellar from their summer efforts and told of what was left to come in the autumn with pears and apples. He told her of more of his adventures in the Indies. They were grateful to have these few days before he returned to sea.

Anne said, “Of course, much of what I am learning I will not use when we are at sea. I think it has truly stretched my understanding of the household, though, and am very grateful for that. It will be harder to see things go to waste. Now, the healing skills should be useful. And the needlework skills too. Sophie says that they will help keep me occupied when there is little else to focus on at sea.”

Frederick answered, “And of course, they keep you occupied until we can wed. I am very grateful for your family’s support and encouragement. I admit that there may be some merit in Lady Russell’s initial fear that our relationship could be a distraction in my work. I will admit that there were times when I wanted to take less risk because I wanted to be sure to return to you. However, I think I have found a way to balance my priorities and concerns. When you write her next, will you tell her I am grateful for her original concern? I may not have thought about all the ramification without her arguments to you.”

“It is kind of you to say that. Only the thought that I could have hurt you would have brought me to give you up.”

“I can see that now. Then, all I saw was that she wanted to keep us apart.”

“She understands now and is quite supportive. It seems you have each learned to appreciate the other’s perspective.”

His leave was much shorter than Admiral Croft’s, so he soon left to return to Plymouth and his new command. Since they had not expected to see one another, both treasured these few days together.

Chapter 26

The Crofts prepared to journey to Portsmouth, where he was scheduled to depart. Sophie planned to then join Edward in Monkford, since she would not join the Admiral on this tour. Before they left, Anne had a long discussion with Lady Rachel, with the result that Sophie was invited to return to South Park after the Admiral shipped out. Anne would enjoy deepening the friendship with her new sister, and Sophie would not be required to keep house for her brother.

At breakfast, about two days before the Crofts were to leave, Lady Rachel began, “Anne and I have had a long discussion and have a proposition for you. Sophie, we would love it if you would remain with us instead of going to keep house for your brother.”

Anne chimed in, “It would allow us to get to know one another even more. It has been so much fun having you here these past few days. And there is plenty of room. If you stay with us, you will not have quite the work to do as you would with Mr. Wentworth. We do keep quite busy though and would truly appreciate your company.”

The group continued the discussion through the remainder of breakfast. After some consultation together, the Crofts agreed to this change of plans. Sophie left with James and returned about two weeks later when he finally went to sea.

The Admiral began his tour in the seas around France, but over the course of the autumn as hostilities with Russia broke out, he shifted his operation to the Baltic as he had predicted. The hostilities were slow to escalate, but tensions were high.

Frederick took command of the Laconia and went south to Spain and into the Mediterranean. Anne mentioned this in one of her letters with Mrs. Musgrove and found that their second son, Dick, who was a midshipman in the navy, was also aboard the Laconia. He had joined it after being left in Gibraltar suffering from an illness. How providential that he was serving with Anne’s betrothed. Since Anne was aware that Dick had been sent to sea as a problem child, she hoped Frederick would not suffer from having him under his command. To Mrs. Musgrove, she agreed that it was providential.

Anne and Sophie wrote weekly to their sailors, and in return, received irregular replies. They regularly read the papers to see news of the battles and to watch for mention of their ships. As they were both in war zones, the papers might know of activity far in advance of the correspondence from the sailors. Dick Musgrove lasted about six months on the Laconia before being deposited again in Gibraltar and joining another vessel. Mrs. Musgrove noted that he had never written more letters home than he had in his six-month tour with Captain Wentworth.

Anne continued her domestic lessons concentrating on the autumn harvest-time needs. Sophie decided to join her efforts. She could cook, after a fashion, but not well. She had never had much need at sea. She enjoyed learning how to improve her efforts. She was already a much better seamstress than Anne and agreed that this was a skill Anne would want, whether at home or at sea. So were the efforts at caring for the ill and infirm.

The ladies particularly enjoyed drying the apple harvest. They sampled a great many apples during those weeks. They dried apples and pears and made a great deal of apple cider and apple cider vinegar.

As they gathered and dried a wide variety of herbs, they also made flavored vinegars with some. They learned how these could add more variety to foods, even when the same basic foods were used over and over. Seasonings and flavorings could change a monotonous diet to something with a lot more variety and were fairly easy to create. This was something that could be used to vary the menu at sea, so Sophie was particularly interested in these.

By the time the harvest was complete, both Anne and Sophie could see how well-stocked the cellar and pantry were, with ample fruit and vegetable for the winter and early spring. The final harvest activity was slaughter of surplus animals. While some had been used when young, for veal or lamb, many of the young animals had grown through the course of the summer and were ready for harvest, just as the produce was. While some were used fresh, the remainder were smoked, salted, dried, or cured into sausage and stored in the cellar. The rest would continue to grow in the pastures and barns. Some would be used fresh during the winter. Others would become part of the breeding stock. The girls did not have to participate in the slaughter but found the rest an interesting process. Both agreed it was easier getting a joint from the butcher, but if you raised it yourself, you knew it was sound and fresh. However, they agreed it was an awful lot of work.

The final harvest activity was the planting of the cover crop in the garden. They spent a few days with John as he prepared the gardens for winter. Everything was tilled well. Compost was spread and tilled in. Then the cover crop was planted. This would help enrich the soil over the winter and be plowed under again in the spring. Green shoots were apparent within just a few days. They would spend most of the winter under a covering of snow. Other plants were covered in mulch to protect them over the winter.

As harvest was over, Mrs. Carlisle decided that Anne had a good foundation in the domestic basics required in the kitchen. There would always be new recipes to learn, or new inventions, such as the canning that Napoleon now had for his army, to consider adopting. However, Anne now had the ability to feed her family if she had no cook. They celebrated with her preparing an entire feast for dinner, rather than the simpler meals she usually managed.

First, they planned the menu together. There would be a soup course, a fish course, a roasted chicken, and a sweet. After the planning, they ensured that they had all the supplies needed. The fish came from the efforts of Sir Michael the previous day. Anne decided that she did not care for cleaning the fresh-caught fish but knew they would taste wonderful. Sophie remarked that they could frequently be found on the table at sea.

That day began with the preparation of an apple pie, since apples had been picked the previous day. Once it was cooling, Anne chopped the vegetables and got the soup going. Then the chicken began roasting on the spit. Finally, the fish was ready for frying. At that point, she left to change for dinner. There was no way to fry the fish and participate in eating the multi-course feast, so Mrs. Carlisle would take care of that item.

Lady Matilda and Sir Michael joined the dinner in the dower house to celebrate Anne’s achievement. As the footman served the soup, Sir Michael said, “I propose a toast to our Anne, who has put this feast together for us. Congratulations on becoming quite the cook.”

They all raised a glass and saluted Anne, who blushed furiously. She then replied, “I thank you for all your kind appreciation. I hope this meal lives up to the accolades.”

As each course was served, they discussed its preparation, and all that led up to that preparation. By the time the pie arrived, everyone was truly impressed with how much Anne had learned in the previous year. Sophie Croft said, “While Anne does not feel she is ready to be a real cook, I have no fear that Frederick will ever starve. If he can get her the ingredients, she will see that the family has food on the table. That is always a blessing. Thank you for helping her, and for letting me participate a little as well. I am sure my husband will also appreciate it.”

They all laughed at that, since they had seen how little attention the admiral paid to what he was eating. He seemed to appreciate company more than the food at any meal.

With her basic cooking course complete, they determined to focus more on the various needlework projects. The new task for this autumn was to learn to crochet lace. Sophie admitted that she did sometimes regret how very plain most of her gowns were. She was excited to learn the art of lace crochet, even if all she embellished was a bonnet, cap, or nightgown. They first had to obtain small crochet hooks which were required for more delicate lace. They also needed finer thread than that they used for knitting their stockings.

It took a few weeks of effort before their lace was deemed adequate. Their first efforts would progress for a few inches before it became apparent that they were not successful. They would then laugh at the results, undo the project, and begin again. Finally, the finished product looked something like had been planned.

As they became proficient at making lace, Sophie said, “This is something I could have used to keep busy during quiet times at sea. Sea voyages are often quite monotonous and this would have been a good way to spend the time. Now I will be able to do this on future journeys.” They made many yards of lace of varying patterns which they then used to embellish their dresses and caps.

They found that crochet was something that fit nicely in a basket and could travel with them when they went visiting. One could crochet while riding in the carriage, while trying to knit was far more difficult. Knitting often involved knocking elbows with a seatmate while crochet was far more compact. Thus, their crochet began to accompany them everywhere they rode. Both found it a relaxing activity. Tatting was worse than knitting with its little frame and never accompanied them. However, they could both appreciate its results, so they would tat while visiting in the parlor at home. Those projects were much slower than the crochet laces.

Sophie, Lady Rachel, and Anne discussed what life was like on sea voyages. Sophie agreed that the lessons in care for the sick or injured would be helpful as would the various needlework projects. Since she had never been stationed on land, she had never needed the cooking, but she could see that there would be future value in it. She suggested more learning about healing herbs would be useful. Lady Rachel determined to have the girls spend time with the local herbalist in order to provide that information. Otherwise, they were all well satisfied in the training that Anne had received.

Almost Persuaded Chapters 25 and 26

ShannaGJanuary 14, 2015 04:55PM

Re: Almost Persuaded Chapters 25 and 26

LisetteJanuary 15, 2015 08:58AM


LisetteJanuary 15, 2015 08:58AM

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ShannaGJanuary 15, 2015 04:13PM

Re: Almost Persuaded Chapters 25 and 26

Jim D.January 14, 2015 11:31PM

Re: Almost Persuaded Chapters 25 and 26

ShannaGJanuary 15, 2015 04:06PM

Re: Almost Persuaded Chapters 25 and 26

AlidaJanuary 15, 2015 01:34AM

Re: Almost Persuaded Chapters 25 and 26

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Re: Almost Persuaded Chapters 25 and 26

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