"Certainly," said Elinor; "he seems very agreeable."
"Well--I am so glad you do. I thought you would,
he is so pleasant; and Mr. Palmer is excessively pleased
with you and your sisters I can tell you, and you can't
think how disappointed he will be if you don't come
to Cleveland.--I can't imagine why you should object
Elinor was again obliged to decline her invitation;
and by changing the subject, put a stop to her entreaties.
She thought it probable that as they lived in the
same county, Mrs. Palmer might be able to give some
more particular account of Willoughby's general
character, than could be gathered from the Middletons'
partial acquaintance with him; and she was eager to gain
from any one, such a confirmation of his merits as might
remove the possibility of fear from Marianne. She began
by inquiring if they saw much of Mr. Willoughby at Cleveland,
and whether they were intimately acquainted with him.
"Oh dear, yes; I know him extremely well,"
replied Mrs. Palmer;--"Not that I ever spoke
to him, indeed; but I have seen him for ever in town.
Somehow or other I never happened to be staying at Barton
while he was at Allenham. Mama saw him here once before;--
but I was with my uncle at Weymouth. However, I dare say
we should have seen a great deal of him in Somersetshire,
if it had not happened very unluckily that we should never
have been in the country together. He is very little
at Combe, I believe; but if he were ever so much there,
I do not think Mr. Palmer would visit him, for he is
in the opposition, you know, and besides it is such a
way off. I know why you inquire about him, very well;
your sister is to marry him. I am monstrous glad of it,
for then I shall have her for a neighbour you know."
"Upon my word," replied Elinor, "you know much
more of the matter than I do, if you have any reason
to expect such a match."
"Don't pretend to deny it, because you know it is
what every body talks of. I assure you I heard of it
in my way through town."
"My dear Mrs. Palmer!"
"Upon my honour I did.--I met Colonel Brandon
Monday morning in Bond-street, just before we left town,
and he told me of it directly."
"You surprise me very much. Colonel Brandon tell
you of it! Surely you must be mistaken. To give such
intelligence to a person who could not be interested in it,
even if it were true, is not what I should expect Colonel
Brandon to do."
"But I do assure you it was so, for all that,
and I will tell you how it happened. When we met him,
he turned back and walked with us; and so we began talking
of my brother and sister, and one thing and another,
and I said to him, 'So, Colonel, there is a new family
come to Barton cottage, I hear, and mama sends me word
they are very pretty, and that one of them is going to be
married to Mr. Willoughby of Combe Magna. Is it true,
pray? for of course you must know, as you have been in
Devonshire so lately.'"
"And what did the Colonel say?"
"Oh--he did not say much; but he looked as if he
knew it to be true, so from that moment I set it down
as certain. It will be quite delightful, I declare!
When is it to take place?"
"Mr. Brandon was very well I hope?"
"Oh! yes, quite well; and so full of your praises,
he did nothing but say fine things of you."
"I am flattered by his commendation. He seems
an excellent man; and I think him uncommonly pleasing."
"So do I.--He is such a charming man, that it
is quite a pity he should be so grave and so dull.
Mamma says HE was in love with your sister too.--
I assure you it was a great compliment if he was, for he
hardly ever falls in love with any body."
"Is Mr. Willoughby much known in your part
of Somersetshire?" said Elinor.
"Oh! yes, extremely well; that is, I do not believe
many people are acquainted with him, because Combe Magna
is so far off; but they all think him extremely agreeable
I assure you. Nobody is more liked than Mr. Willoughby
wherever he goes, and so you may tell your sister.
She is a monstrous lucky girl to get him, upon my honour;
not but that he is much more lucky in getting her,
because she is so very handsome and agreeable, that nothing
can be good enough for her. However, I don't think
her hardly at all handsomer than you, I assure you;
for I think you both excessively pretty, and so does
Mr. Palmer too I am sure, though we could not get him
to own it last night."
Mrs. Palmer's information respecting Willoughby
was not very material; but any testimony in his favour,
however small, was pleasing to her.
"I am so glad we are got acquainted at last,"
continued Charlotte.--"And now I hope we shall always be
great friends. You can't think how much I longed to see you!
It is so delightful that you should live at the cottage!
Nothing can be like it, to be sure! And I am so glad
your sister is going to be well married! I hope you will
be a great deal at Combe Magna. It is a sweet place,
by all accounts."
"You have been long acquainted with Colonel Brandon,
have not you?"
"Yes, a great while; ever since my sister married.--
He was a particular friend of Sir John's. I believe,"
she added in a low voice, "he would have been very
glad to have had me, if he could. Sir John and Lady
Middleton wished it very much. But mama did not think
the match good enough for me, otherwise Sir John would
have mentioned it to the Colonel, and we should have been
"Did not Colonel Brandon know of Sir John's proposal
to your mother before it was made? Had he never owned
his affection to yourself?"
"Oh, no; but if mama had not objected to it,
I dare say he would have liked it of all things.
He had not seen me then above twice, for it was before
I left school. However, I am much happier as I am.
Mr. Palmer is the kind of man I like."
The Palmers returned to Cleveland the next day,
and the two families at Barton were again left to entertain
each other. But this did not last long; Elinor had hardly
got their last visitors out of her head, had hardly done
wondering at Charlotte's being so happy without a cause,
at Mr. Palmer's acting so simply, with good abilities,
and at the strange unsuitableness which often existed between
husband and wife, before Sir John's and Mrs. Jennings's
active zeal in the cause of society, procured her some
other new acquaintance to see and observe.
In a morning's excursion to Exeter, they had met with
two young ladies, whom Mrs. Jennings had the satisfaction
of discovering to be her relations, and this was enough
for Sir John to invite them directly to the park,
as soon as their present engagements at Exeter were over.
Their engagements at Exeter instantly gave way before
such an invitation, and Lady Middleton was thrown into
no little alarm on the return of Sir John, by hearing
that she was very soon to receive a visit from two girls
whom she had never seen in her life, and of whose elegance,--
whose tolerable gentility even, she could have no proof;
for the assurances of her husband and mother on that subject
went for nothing at all. Their being her relations too
made it so much the worse; and Mrs. Jennings's attempts
at consolation were therefore unfortunately founded,
when she advised her daughter not to care about their being
so fashionable; because they were all cousins and must put
up with one another. As it was impossible, however, now to
prevent their coming, Lady Middleton resigned herself to the
idea of it, with all the philosophy of a well-bred woman,
contenting herself with merely giving her husband a gentle
reprimand on the subject five or six times every day.
The young ladies arrived: their appearance was by
no means ungenteel or unfashionable. Their dress was
very smart, their manners very civil, they were delighted
with the house, and in raptures with the furniture,
and they happened to be so doatingly fond of children
that Lady Middleton's good opinion was engaged in their
favour before they had been an hour at the Park.
She declared them to be very agreeable girls indeed,
which for her ladyship was enthusiastic admiration.
Sir John's confidence in his own judgment rose with this
animated praise, and he set off directly for the cottage
to tell the Miss Dashwoods of the Miss Steeles' arrival,
and to assure them of their being the sweetest girls
in the world. From such commendation as this, however,
there was not much to be learned; Elinor well knew
that the sweetest girls in the world were to be met
with in every part of England, under every possible
variation of form, face, temper and understanding.
Sir John wanted the whole family to walk to the Park directly
and look at his guests. Benevolent, philanthropic man! It
was painful to him even to keep a third cousin to himself.
"Do come now," said he--"pray come--you must come--I
declare you shall come--You can't think how you will
like them. Lucy is monstrous pretty, and so good humoured
and agreeable! The children are all hanging about her already,
as if she was an old acquaintance. And they both long
to see you of all things, for they have heard at Exeter
that you are the most beautiful creatures in the world;
and I have told them it is all very true, and a great
deal more. You will be delighted with them I am sure.
They have brought the whole coach full of playthings
for the children. How can you be so cross as not to come?
Why they are your cousins, you know, after a fashion.
YOU are my cousins, and they are my wife's, so you must