Admiral Croft strolled in the gardens of Kellynch Hall alone. This was not a common occurrence, it being his wife’s custom to accompany him out.
The change to their routine had been caused by Mrs. Crofts’ brother, Captain Wentworth, calling on them not an hour before. He was not expected and being supposed to have been in Shropshire with his brother, his sudden appearance caused some alarm in Mrs. Croft. Having reassured them that all was well with his brother and his wife, Frederick, looking rather upset begged to speak alone with his sister. This had the sole effect of redirecting Sophia’s anxiety from one brother to the other and Frederick’s request was readily assented to which saw the Admiral taking his daily walk earlier than was usual and without companion.
Moved by concern on his wife’s behalf, Admiral Croft did not stray far from the windows of the parlour in which Mrs. Croft and her brother were sitting. So it came to be that he was near enough to hear his wife’s raised voice and her brother calling out her name in alarm. Upon hearing this commotion, the Admiral smiled to himself and made his leisurely way back to the house.
Such a course of action on his part may well appear the sign of a cruel disposition to any who is not well acquainted with the Crofts.
To absolve the Admiral from unfair accusations of his character, the veil of familiar privacy and societal graces must be lifted from the last moments of the interview between brother and sister.
"Engaged to Anne Elliot!" Sophia cried. "Eight years ago!"
Frederick nodded with his head hung down in shame.
Sophia sat stunned for a moment. Unconsciously, her hand closed on a piece of embroidery that lay next to her. Then, fast as lightning, she threw it at her brother.
Frederick barely had time to raise his arms in front of his face before the hoop split against him and clattered to the floor.
Sophia flew on him like a fury.
"And you spent weeks flirting - flirting! - with the Miss Musgroves right in front of her??"
"Sister-" he tried to interject. But Sophia swatted his arm and kept yelling.
"The Miss Musgroves! Both of whom together are not worth one half of Miss Elliot!"
Looking up at his sister with eyes the size of saucers, Frederick mumbled something about her being perfectly right.
"Of course I'm right! She's a pearl of a woman and you treated her like dirt! And all for your. Stupid. Pride. And. Vanity." She punctuated each word by hitting his arm. "And only now you see your error?"
Frederick had the wisdom to keep quiet, though it did not stop his sister from continuing her assault. Sparing no thought for his age and position, she pinched his ear, as she had done many times when Frederick had been a child, and pulled him to his feet.
"Sophia!" He cried out, but was ignored.
"It’s off to Bath with you, little brother!" She dragged him to the parlour door, still holding on to him. "You will find Anne Elliot and you will make her your most sincere and humble apologies for your disgraceful behaviour!" She finally let go of him and stared him down. Frederick Wentworth, who had faced many battles tall and proud, wilted under the glare of his unassuming sister in her rage.
"God's body, Frederick!" She cried. "If she'll have you back it will be more than you deserve! Now off with you!”
This was too much for Frederick. He ran.
Admiral Croft met Frederick on the main steps. His face was red and his habit in disarray.
“My word, Frederick! I have not seen such fear on your face since you were a boy caught asleep on the watch. Do you remember that night, eh?”
Frederick, who had been lashed on the occasion and found the comparison as apt as the admiral did, if not as entertaining, replied that he did.
The admiral caught Frederick’s arm in a familiar grip. “Don’t fret over it, my boy! For some time now you have only met your sister in society. But take my word, I never have so diligent a crew and midshipmen as when Mrs. Croft is on board my ship.”