Sense and sensibility, p.9
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.9
 

           Jane Austen

  CHAPTER VII

  Barton Park was about half a mile from the cottage. The ladies hadpassed near it in their way along the valley, but it was screened fromtheir view at home by the projection of a hill. The house was largeand handsome; and the Middletons lived in a style of equal hospitalityand elegance. The former was for Sir John's gratification, the latterfor that of his lady. They were scarcely ever without some friendsstaying with them in the house, and they kept more company of everykind than any other family in the neighbourhood. It was necessary tothe happiness of both; for however dissimilar in temper and outwardbehaviour, they strongly resembled each other in that total want oftalent and taste which confined their employments, unconnected withsuch as society produced, within a very narrow compass. Sir John was asportsman, Lady Middleton a mother. He hunted and shot, and shehumoured her children; and these were their only resources. LadyMiddleton had the advantage of being able to spoil her children allthe year round, while Sir John's independent employments were inexistence only half the time. Continual engagements at home andabroad, however, supplied all the deficiencies of nature andeducation; supported the good spirits of Sir John, and gave exerciseto the good breeding of his wife.

  Lady Middleton piqued herself upon the elegance of her table, and ofall her domestic arrangements; and from this kind of vanity was hergreatest enjoyment in any of their parties. But Sir John'ssatisfaction in society was much more real; he delighted in collectingabout him more young people than his house would hold, and the noisierthey were the better was he pleased. He was a blessing to all thejuvenile part of the neighbourhood, for in summer he was for everforming parties to eat cold ham and chicken out of doors, and inwinter his private balls were numerous enough for any young lady whowas not suffering under the insatiable appetite of fifteen.

  The arrival of a new family in the country was always a matter of joyto him, and in every point of view he was charmed with the inhabitantshe had now procured for his cottage at Barton. The Miss Dashwoods wereyoung, pretty, and unaffected. It was enough to secure his goodopinion; for to be unaffected was all that a pretty girl could want tomake her mind as captivating as her person. The friendliness of hisdisposition made him happy in accommodating those, whose situationmight be considered, in comparison with the past, as unfortunate. Inshowing kindness to his cousins therefore he had the real satisfactionof a good heart; and in settling a family of females only in hiscottage, he had all the satisfaction of a sportsman; for a sportsman,though he esteems only those of his sex who are sportsmen likewise, isnot often desirous of encouraging their taste by admitting them to aresidence within his own manor.

  Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters were met at the door of the house bySir John, who welcomed them to Barton Park with unaffected sincerity;and as he attended them to the drawing room repeated to the youngladies the concern which the same subject had drawn from him the daybefore, at being unable to get any smart young men to meet them. Theywould see, he said, only one gentleman there besides himself; aparticular friend who was staying at the park, but who was neithervery young nor very gay. He hoped they would all excuse the smallnessof the party, and could assure them it should never happen so again.He had been to several families that morning in hopes of procuringsome addition to their number, but it was moonlight and every body wasfull of engagements. Luckily Lady Middleton's mother had arrived atBarton within the last hour, and as she was a very cheerful agreeablewoman, he hoped the young ladies would not find it so very dull asthey might imagine. The young ladies, as well as their mother, wereperfectly satisfied with having two entire strangers of the party, andwished for no more.

  Mrs. Jennings, Lady Middleton's mother, was a good-humoured, merry,fat, elderly woman, who talked a great deal, seemed very happy, andrather vulgar. She was full of jokes and laughter, and before dinnerwas over had said many witty things on the subject of lovers andhusbands; hoped they had not left their hearts behind them in Sussex,and pretended to see them blush whether they did or not. Marianne wasvexed at it for her sister's sake, and turned her eyes towards Elinorto see how she bore these attacks, with an earnestness which gaveElinor far more pain than could arise from such common-place railleryas Mrs. Jennings's.

  Colonel Brandon, the friend of Sir John, seemed no more adapted byresemblance of manner to be his friend, than Lady Middleton was to behis wife, or Mrs. Jennings to be Lady Middleton's mother. He wassilent and grave. His appearance however was not unpleasing, in spiteof his being in the opinion of Marianne and Margaret an absolute oldbachelor, for he was on the wrong side of five and thirty; but thoughhis face was not handsome, his countenance was sensible, and hisaddress was particularly gentlemanlike.

  There was nothing in any of the party which could recommend them ascompanions to the Dashwoods; but the cold insipidity of Lady Middletonwas so particularly repulsive, that in comparison of it the gravityof Colonel Brandon, and even the boisterous mirth of Sir John and hismother-in-law was interesting. Lady Middleton seemed to be roused toenjoyment only by the entrance of her four noisy children afterdinner, who pulled her about, tore her clothes, and put an end toevery kind of discourse except what related to themselves.

  In the evening, as Marianne was discovered to be musical, she wasinvited to play. The instrument was unlocked, every body prepared tobe charmed, and Marianne, who sang very well, at their request wentthrough the chief of the songs which Lady Middleton had brought intothe family on her marriage, and which perhaps had lain ever since inthe same position on the pianoforte, for her ladyship had celebratedthat event by giving up music, although by her mother's account, shehad played extremely well, and by her own was very fond of it.

  Marianne's performance was highly applauded. Sir John was loud in hisadmiration at the end of every song, and as loud in his conversationwith the others while every song lasted. Lady Middleton frequentlycalled him to order, wondered how any one's attention could bediverted from music for a moment, and asked Marianne to sing aparticular song which Marianne had just finished. Colonel Brandonalone, of all the party, heard her without being in raptures. He paidher only the compliment of attention; and she felt a respect for himon the occasion, which the others had reasonably forfeited by theirshameless want of taste. His pleasure in music, though it amounted notto that ecstatic delight which alone could sympathize with her own,was estimable when contrasted against the horrible insensibility ofthe others; and she was reasonable enough to allow that a man of fiveand thirty might well have outlived all acuteness of feeling and everyexquisite power of enjoyment. She was perfectly disposed to make everyallowance for the colonel's advanced state of life which humanityrequired.

 
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