As the Misses Dashwood entered the drawing room of the Park the
next day, at one door, Mrs. Palmer came running in at the other,
looking as good humoured and merry as before. She took them all most
affectionately by the hand, and expressed great delight in seeing them again.
"I am so glad to see you!" said she, seating herself between
Elinor and 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
to-morrow. We must go, for the Westons come to us next week, you know.
It was quite a sudden thing our coming at all; and I knew nothing of
it till the carriage was coming to the door, and then Mr. Palmer asked
me if I would go with him to Barton. He is so droll! He never tells me
any thing! I am so sorry we cannot stay longer; however we shall
meet again 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
quite disappointed if you do not. I could get the nicest house in
world for you, next door to ours, in Hanover Square. You must come,
indeed. I am sure I shall be very happy to chaperon you at any time
till I am confined, 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
entered the room, "you must help me to persuade the Misses Dashwood to
go to town 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
everything and everybody disgusting. Dullness is as much produced
within doors as without, by rain. It makes one detest all one's
acquaintance. What the devil 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 the weather."
The rest of the company soon dropped in.
"I am afraid, Miss Marianne," said Sir John, "you have not been
able to take your usual walk to Allenham to-day."
Marianne looked very grave, and said nothing.
"Oh, don't be so sly before us," said Mrs. Palmer; "for we know
all about it, I assure you; and I admire your taste very much, for I
think he is extremely handsome. We do not live a great way from him in
the country, 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;
but they 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
betrayed her interest in what was said.
"Is it very ugly?" continued Mrs. Palmer;- "then it must be some
other place that is so pretty, I suppose."
When they were seated in the dining-room, Sir John observed with
regret that they were only eight all together.
"My dear," said he to his lady, "it is very provoking that we
should be so few. Why did not you ask the Gilberts to come to usto-day?"
"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 such ceremony."
"Then you would be very ill-bred," cried Mr. Palmer.
"My love you contradict everybody," said his wife with her usual
laugh. "Do you know that you are quite rude?"
"I did not know I contradicted anybody in calling your mother ill-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 back
again. So there I have the whip hand of you."
Charlotte laughed heartily to think that her husband could not get
rid of 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 more thoroughly good-natured, or more determined to be happy,
than Mrs. Palmer. The studied indifference, insolence, and
discontent of her husband gave her no pain; and when he scolded or
abused her, she was highly diverted.
"Mr. Palmer is so droll!" said she, in a whisper, to Elinor. "He
is always out of humour."
Elinor was not inclined, after a little observation, to give him
credit for being so genuinely and unaffectedly ill-natured or ill-bred
as he wished to appear. His temper might perhaps be a little soured by
finding, like many others of his sex, that through some
unaccountable bias in favour of beauty, he was the husband of a very
silly woman,- but she knew that this kind of blunder was too common
for any sensible man to be lastingly hurt by it. It was rather a
wish of distinction, she believed, which produced his contemptuous
treatment of everybody, and his general abuse of everything before
him. It was the desire of appearing superior to other people. The
motive was too common to be wondered at; but the means, however they
might succeed by establishing his superiority in ill-breeding, were
not likely to attach any one to him except his wife.
"Oh, my dear Miss Dashwood," said Mrs. Palmer soon afterwards,
"I have got such a favour to ask of you and your sister. Will you come
and spend some time at Cleveland this Christmas? Now, pray do,- and
come while 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 Misses Dashwood come to Cleveland?"
"Certainly," he replied, with a sneer; "I came into Devonshire
with no other view."
"There now," said his lady, "you see Mr. Palmer expects you; so
you cannot 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
all things. 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 gay now, for Mr. Palmer is always going about the country
canvassing against the election; and so many people came to dine
with us that I never saw before, it is quite charming! But, poor
fellow! it is very fatiguing to him, for he is forced to make every
body like him."
Elinor could hardly keep her countenance as she assented to the
hardship of such an obligation.
"How charming it will be," said Charlotte, "when he is in
Parliament!- won't it? How I shall laugh! It will be so ridiculous
to see all his letters directed to him with an M.P. But do you know,
he says, 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
is quite shocking."
"No," said he, "I never said any thing so irrational. Don't palm
all your 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 he comes 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 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 to it."
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 enquiring if they saw much of Mr.
Willoughby at Cleveland, and whether they were intimately acquaintedwith 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. Some how or other I never happened to be staying at Barton while
he was at Allenham. Mamma 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
enquire 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 mamma 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 mamma did not
think the match good enough for me, otherwise Sir John would have
mentioned it to the Colonel, and we should have been married immediately."
"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 mamma 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."
Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 19 Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 21