Sense and sensibility, p.8
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.8

           Jane Austen


  The first part of their journey was performed in too melancholy adisposition to be otherwise than tedious and unpleasant. But as theydrew towards the end of it, their interest in the appearance of acountry which they were to inhabit overcame their dejection, and aview of Barton Valley as they entered it gave them cheerfulness. Itwas a pleasant fertile spot, well wooded, and rich in pasture. Afterwinding along it for more than a mile, they reached their own house. Asmall green court was the whole of its demesne in front; and a neatwicket gate admitted them into it.

  As a house, Barton Cottage, though small, was comfortable and compact;but as a cottage it was defective, for the building was regular, theroof was tiled, the window shutters were not painted green, nor werethe walls covered with honeysuckles. A narrow passage led directlythrough the house into the garden behind. On each side of the entrancewas a sitting room, about sixteen feet square; and beyond them werethe offices and the stairs. Four bedrooms and two garrets formed therest of the house. It had not been built many years and was in goodrepair. In comparison of Norland, it was poor and small indeed!--butthe tears which recollection called forth as they entered the housewere soon dried away. They were cheered by the joy of the servants ontheir arrival, and each for the sake of the others resolved to appearhappy. It was very early in September; the season was fine, and fromfirst seeing the place under the advantage of good weather, theyreceived an impression in its favour which was of material service inrecommending it to their lasting approbation.

  The situation of the house was good. High hills rose immediatelybehind, and at no great distance on each side; some of which were opendowns, the others cultivated and woody. The village of Barton waschiefly on one of these hills, and formed a pleasant view from thecottage windows. The prospect in front was more extensive; itcommanded the whole of the valley, and reached into the countrybeyond. The hills which surrounded the cottage terminated the valleyin that direction; under another name, and in another course, itbranched out again between two of the steepest of them.

  With the size and furniture of the house Mrs. Dashwood was upon thewhole well satisfied; for though her former style of life renderedmany additions to the latter indispensable, yet to add and improve wasa delight to her; and she had at this time ready money enough tosupply all that was wanted of greater elegance to the apartments. "Asfor the house itself, to be sure," said she, "it is too small for ourfamily, but we will make ourselves tolerably comfortable for thepresent, as it is too late in the year for improvements. Perhaps inthe spring, if I have plenty of money, as I dare say I shall, we maythink about building. These parlors are both too small for suchparties of our friends as I hope to see often collected here; and Ihave some thoughts of throwing the passage into one of them withperhaps a part of the other, and so leave the remainder of that otherfor an entrance; this, with a new drawing room which may be easilyadded, and a bed-chamber and garret above, will make it a very snuglittle cottage. I could wish the stairs were handsome. But one mustnot expect every thing; though I suppose it would be no difficultmatter to widen them. I shall see how much I am before-hand with theworld in the spring, and we will plan our improvements accordingly."

  In the mean time, till all these alterations could be made from thesavings of an income of five hundred a-year by a woman who neversaved in her life, they were wise enough to be contented with thehouse as it was; and each of them was busy in arranging theirparticular concerns, and endeavoring, by placing around them books andother possessions, to form themselves a home. Marianne's pianofortewas unpacked and properly disposed of; and Elinor's drawings wereaffixed to the walls of their sitting room.

  In such employments as these they were interrupted soon afterbreakfast the next day by the entrance of their landlord, who calledto welcome them to Barton, and to offer them every accommodation fromhis own house and garden in which theirs might at present bedeficient. Sir John Middleton was a good looking man about forty. Hehad formerly visited at Stanhill, but it was too long for his youngcousins to remember him. His countenance was thoroughly good-humoured;and his manners were as friendly as the style of his letter. Theirarrival seemed to afford him real satisfaction, and their comfort tobe an object of real solicitude to him. He said much of his earnestdesire of their living in the most sociable terms with his family, andpressed them so cordially to dine at Barton Park every day till theywere better settled at home, that, though his entreaties were carriedto a point of perseverance beyond civility, they could not giveoffence. His kindness was not confined to words; for within an hourafter he left them, a large basket full of garden stuff and fruitarrived from the park, which was followed before the end of the day bya present of game. He insisted, moreover, on conveying all theirletters to and from the post for them, and would not be denied thesatisfaction of sending them his newspaper every day.

  Lady Middleton had sent a very civil message by him, denoting herintention of waiting on Mrs. Dashwood as soon as she could be assuredthat her visit would be no inconvenience; and as this message wasanswered by an invitation equally polite, her ladyship was introducedto them the next day.

  _So shy before company._]

  They were, of course, very anxious to see a person on whom so much oftheir comfort at Barton must depend; and the elegance of herappearance was favourable to their wishes. Lady Middleton was not morethan six or seven and twenty; her face was handsome, her figure talland striking, and her address graceful. Her manners had all theelegance which her husband's wanted. But they would have been improvedby some share of his frankness and warmth; and her visit was longenough to detract something from their first admiration, by showingthat, though perfectly well-bred, she was reserved, cold, and hadnothing to say for herself beyond the most common-place inquiry orremark.

  Conversation however was not wanted, for Sir John was very chatty, andLady Middleton had taken the wise precaution of bringing with hertheir eldest child, a fine little boy about six years old, by whichmeans there was one subject always to be recurred to by the ladies incase of extremity, for they had to enquire his name and age, admirehis beauty, and ask him questions which his mother answered for him,while he hung about her and held down his head, to the great surpriseof her ladyship, who wondered at his being so shy before company, ashe could make noise enough at home. On every formal visit a childought to be of the party, by way of provision for discourse. In thepresent case it took up ten minutes to determine whether the boy weremost like his father or mother, and in what particular he resembledeither, for of course every body differed, and every body wasastonished at the opinion of the others.

  An opportunity was soon to be given to the Dashwoods of debating onthe rest of the children, as Sir John would not leave the housewithout securing their promise of dining at the park the next day.

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