Sense and sensibility, p.22
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.22
 

           Jane Austen

  CHAPTER XX

  As the Miss Dashwoods entered the drawing-room of the park the nextday, at one door, Mrs. Palmer came running in at the other, looking asgood humoured and merry as before. She took them all mostaffectionately by the hand, and expressed great delight in seeing themagain.

  "I am so glad to see you!" said she, seating herself between Elinorand Marianne, "for it is so bad a day I was afraid you might not come,which would be a shocking thing, as we go away again tomorrow. We mustgo, for the Westons come to us next week you know. It was quite asudden thing our coming at all, and I knew nothing of it till thecarriage was coming to the door, and then Mr. Palmer asked me if Iwould go with him to Barton. He is so droll! He never tells me anything! I am so sorry we cannot stay longer; however we shall meetagain in town very soon, I hope."

  They were obliged to put an end to such an expectation.

  "Not go to town!" cried Mrs. Palmer, with a laugh, "I shall be quitedisappointed if you do not. I could get the nicest house in world foryou, next door to ours, in Hanover-square. You must come, indeed. I amsure I shall be very happy to chaperon you at any time till I amconfined, if Mrs. Dashwood should not like to go into public."

  They thanked her; but were obliged to resist all her entreaties.

  "Oh, my love," cried Mrs. Palmer to her husband, who just then enteredthe room--"you must help me to persuade the Miss Dashwoods to go totown this winter."

  Her love made no answer; and after slightly bowing to the ladies,began complaining of the weather.

  "How horrid all this is!" said he. "Such weather makes every thing andevery body disgusting. Dullness is as much produced within doors aswithout, by rain. It makes one detest all one's acquaintance. What thedevil does Sir John mean by not having a billiard room in his house?How few people know what comfort is! Sir John is as stupid as theweather."

  The rest of the company soon dropt in.

  "I am afraid, Miss Marianne," said Sir John, "you have not been ableto take your usual walk to Allenham today."

  Marianne looked very grave and said nothing.

  "Oh, don't be so sly before us," said Mrs. Palmer; "for we know allabout it, I assure you; and I admire your taste very much, for I thinkhe is extremely handsome. We do not live a great way from him in thecountry, you know. Not above ten miles, I dare say."

  "Much nearer thirty," said her husband.

  "Ah, well! there is not much difference. I never was at his house; butthey say it is a sweet pretty place."

  "As vile a spot as I ever saw in my life," said Mr. Palmer.

  Marianne remained perfectly silent, though her countenance betrayedher interest in what was said.

  "Is it very ugly?" continued Mrs. Palmer--"then it must be some otherplace that is so pretty I suppose."

  When they were seated in the dining room, Sir John observed withregret that they were only eight all together.

  "My dear," said he to his lady, "it is very provoking that we shouldbe so few. Why did not you ask the Gilberts to come to us today?"

  "Did not I tell you, Sir John, when you spoke to me about it before,that it could not be done? They dined with us last."

  "You and I, Sir John," said Mrs. Jennings, "should not stand upon suchceremony."

  "Then you would be very ill-bred," cried Mr. Palmer.

  "My love you contradict every body," said his wife with her usuallaugh. "Do you know that you are quite rude?"

  "I did not know I contradicted any body in calling your motherill-bred."

  "Ay, you may abuse me as you please," said the good-natured old lady,"you have taken Charlotte off my hands, and cannot give her backagain. So there I have the whip hand of you."

  Charlotte laughed heartily to think that her husband could not get ridof her; and exultingly said, she did not care how cross he was to her,as they must live together. It was impossible for any one to be morethoroughly good-natured, or more determined to be happy than Mrs.Palmer. The studied indifference, insolence, and discontent of herhusband gave her no pain; and when he scolded or abused her, she washighly diverted.

  "Mr. Palmer is so droll!" said she, in a whisper, to Elinor. "He isalways out of humour."

  Elinor was not inclined, after a little observation, to give himcredit for being so genuinely and unaffectedly ill-natured or ill-bredas he wished to appear. His temper might perhaps be a little soured byfinding, like many others of his sex, that through some unaccountablebias in favour of beauty, he was the husband of a very sillywoman,--but she knew that this kind of blunder was too common for anysensible man to be lastingly hurt by it. It was rather a wish ofdistinction, she believed, which produced his contemptuous treatmentof every body, and his general abuse of every thing before him. It wasthe desire of appearing superior to other people. The motive was toocommon to be wondered at; but the means, however they might succeed byestablishing his superiority in ill-breeding, were not likely toattach any one to him except his wife.

  "Oh, my dear Miss Dashwood," said Mrs. Palmer soon afterwards, "I havegot such a favour to ask of you and your sister. Will you come andspend some time at Cleveland this Christmas? Now, pray do,--and comewhile the Westons are with us. You cannot think how happy I shall be!It will be quite delightful!--My love," applying to her husband,"don't you long to have the Miss Dashwoods come to Cleveland?"

  "Certainly," he replied, with a sneer--"I came into Devonshire with noother view."

  "There now,"--said his lady, "you see Mr. Palmer expects you; so youcannot refuse to come."

  They both eagerly and resolutely declined her invitation.

  "But indeed you must and shall come. I am sure you will like it of allthings. The Westons will be with us, and it will be quite delightful.You cannot think what a sweet place Cleveland is; and we are so gaynow, for Mr. Palmer is always going about the country canvassingagainst the election; and so many people came to dine with us that Inever saw before, it is quite charming! But, poor fellow! it is veryfatiguing to him! for he is forced to make every body like him."

  Elinor could hardly keep her countenance as she assented to thehardship of such an obligation.

  "How charming it will be," said Charlotte, "when he is inParliament!--won't it? How I shall laugh! It will be so ridiculous tosee all his letters directed to him with an M.P. But do you know, hesays, he will never frank for me? He declares he won't. Don't you, Mr.Palmer?"

  Mr. Palmer took no notice of her.

  "He cannot bear writing, you know," she continued; "he says it isquite shocking."

  "No," said he, "I never said any thing so irrational. Don't palm allyour abuses of languages upon me."

  "There now; you see how droll he is. This is always the way with him!Sometimes he won't speak to me for half a day together, and then hecomes out with something so droll--all about any thing in the world."

  She surprised Elinor very much as they returned into the drawing-room,by asking her whether she did not like Mr. Palmer excessively.

  "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 cantell you, and you can't think how disappointed he will be if you don'tcome to Cleveland. I can't imagine why you should object to it."

  Elinor was again obliged to decline her invitation; and by changingthe subject, put a stop to her entreaties. She thought it probablethat as they lived in the same county, Mrs. Palmer might be able togive some more particular account of Willoughby's general character,than could be gathered from the Middletons' partial acquaintance withhim; and she was eager to gain from any one, such a confirmation ofhis merits as might remove the possibility of fear from Marianne. Shebegan 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;--"Notthat I ever spoke to him, indeed; but I have seen him for ever intown. Somehow or other I never happened to be staying at Barton w
hilehe was at Allenham. Mama saw him here once before, but I was with myuncle at Weymouth. However, I dare say we should have seen a greatdeal of him in Somersetshire, if it had not happened very unluckilythat we should never have been in the country together. He is verylittle at Combe, I believe; but if he were ever so much there, I donot think Mr. Palmer would visit him, for he is in the opposition, youknow, and besides it is such a way off. I know why you inquire abouthim, very well; your sister is to marry him. I am monstrous glad ofit, for then I shall have her for a neighbour you know."

  "Upon my word," replied Elinor, "you know much more of the matter thanI do, if you have any reason to expect such a match."

  "Don't pretend to deny it, because you know it is what every bodytalks 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 inBond-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 youmust be mistaken. To give such intelligence to a person who could notbe interested in it, even if it were true, is not what I should expectColonel Brandon to do."

  "But I do assure you it was so, for all that, and I will tell you howit happened. When we met him, he turned back and walked with us; andso we began talking of my brother and sister, and one thing andanother, and I said to him, 'So, Colonel, there is a new family cometo Barton cottage, I hear, and mama sends me word they are verypretty, and that one of them is going to be married to Mr. Willoughbyof Combe Magna. Is it true, pray? for of course you must know, as youhave 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 quitedelightful, 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 butsay fine things of you."

  "I am flattered by his commendation. He seems an excellent man; and Ithink him uncommonly pleasing."

  "So do I. He is such a charming man, that it is quite a pity he shouldbe so grave and so dull. Mamma says _he_ was in love with your sistertoo. I assure you it was a great compliment if he was, for he hardlyever falls in love with any body."

  "Is Mr. Willoughby much known in your part of Somersetshire?" saidElinor.

  "Oh! yes, extremely well; that is, I do not believe many people areacquainted with him, because Combe Magna is so far off; but they allthink him extremely agreeable I assure you. Nobody is more liked thanMr. Willoughby wherever he goes, and so you may tell your sister. Sheis a monstrous lucky girl to get him, upon my honour; not but that heis much more lucky in getting her, because she is so very handsome andagreeable, that nothing can be good enough for her. However, I don'tthink her hardly at all handsomer than you, I assure you; for I thinkyou 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 howmuch I longed to see you! It is so delightful that you should live atthe cottage! Nothing can be like it, to be sure! And I am so glad yoursister is going to be well married! I hope you will be a great deal atCombe 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 particularfriend of Sir John's. I believe," she added in a low voice, "he wouldhave been very glad to have had me, if he could. Sir John and LadyMiddleton wished it very much. But mama did not think the match goodenough for me, otherwise Sir John would have mentioned it to theColonel, and we should have been married immediately."

  "Did not Colonel Brandon know of Sir John's proposal to your motherbefore 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 haveliked it of all things. He had not seen me then above twice, for itwas before I left school. However, I am much happier as I am. Mr.Palmer is the kind of man I like."

 
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