It is Michaelmas and Anne’s thoughts turn toward Kellynch and the Crofts who have now taken residence there.
“Would you care for some blackberry jam?” Charles Hayter asked, lifting the dish in her direction.
Oh bother, she must stop daydreaming before someone took notice! Anne smiled, “Thank you, yes. I think I shall miss picking them.”
“It is a shame there are still so many on the bushes and now Michaelmas has come, we cannot pick them anymore.” Henrietta batted her eyes at Charles.
Their recent berry picking expedition had ended with Henrietta returning with her dress stained as bright as her cheeks.
He tipped the spoon of jam almost into Anne’s lap. “Pray forgive me! I did not mean to be so clumsy!”
“Never fear, only a small bit missed the plate.” Anne schooled her features into anything but the laugh that bubbled up. The young curate was a gentle soul who would not relish being the source of a good natured joke.
“I cannot agree, Miss Henrietta,” Mrs. Hayter dabbed her lips with her napkin and folded her blue-veined hands on the edge of the table. “The true shame is that we had to send young Henry off to school and we are all deprived of his company.”
“But Mother,” Charles Hayter leaned across the table, “you can hardly despair him pursuing an education. It was the making of me, you say all the time. Consider, you might find yourself with a solicitor in the family.”
“Yes, yes, that is quite agreeable and I would be pleased to see him make something grand of himself, but you cannot discount the tender feelings of a mother’s heart.”
“I quite understand, dear,” Mrs. Musgrove patted Mrs. Hayter’s hand, “it was a very sad day when our dear Richard left home.”
Charles Musgrove exchanged a tight-lipped look with his father, then glanced at Anne. Did they expect her to divert the conversation from such an awkward topic? Why did they not step in to talk of their hunt or fishing or even the coming harvest? Were they not the men of the family and able to control so small a thing as a conversation? Hardly.
She swallowed back her sigh. It was, after all, to her advantage to turn this conversation. “It is a beautiful bunch of Michaelmas daisies you brought to grace the table, Louisa. I did not see any in the garden. Where did you find them?”
Louisa launched into an animated description of exactly the spot in the wood where she found them and everything she saw along the way. Though sometimes a bit fanciful, Louisa could be counted on to have her share of the conversation, and more if she were permtted.
Anne leaned back into her chair. Louisa would occupy them for some minutes and perhaps she might gather her composure now. Michaelmas had always been an awkward day at Kellynch and this year was even more so.
Bad enough facing the affected merriment of the tenants who resented presenting her father with a goose fattened on hay stubble only to hear that he would to raise rents yet again. How the resentment and anger in their eyes pierced her soul. There would be no feasting or pretended gaiety at Kellynch this year, at least none she would be made aware of. The tenants might well celebrate the departure of Sir Walter, even if he was still their landlord.
The Crofts were still far too new to the neighborhood to be part of any Michaelmas celebration this year. They had only just taken possession of the house a few days past, they could hardly be prepared to host a feast themselves.
Oh, but had they been ready, what kind of feast would they have held? Certainly they would have included all the tenants, something Father never did—allow people of that quality to sup within the walls of Kellynch manor? Bad enough that they should be permitted to live within the shades of Kellynch, but Mr. Shepard insisted none of the farms or houses should be left empty. But Admiral Croft seemed the kind of man who would share the jovial proceedings with as many as might be included and Mrs. Croft, with her gentle eyes and kindly smile, she would be the kind of hostess Anne’s mother had been.
Anne swallowed hard. She had not seen much of the Crofts when they visited Kellynch, but what she had was enough to convince her they were very decent people and, had she the opportunity, she would have liked them very much, indeed.
“Miss Anne, are you well?” Mrs. Musgrove asked, cocking her head and peering at Anne in her motherly-but-almost-intrusive sort of way.
Anne blinked rapidly and stretched her lips into something that should look like a smile. “Very well, thank you.”
“She is just sulking again.” Mary sniffed and curled her lip, almost affecting the signature Elliot sneer.
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