The first part of their journey was performed in too
melancholy a disposition to be otherwise than tedious
and unpleasant. But as they drew towards the end of it,
their interest in the appearance of a country which they
were to inhabit overcame their dejection, and a view of
Barton Valley as they entered it gave them cheerfulness.
It was a pleasant fertile spot, well wooded, and rich
in pasture. After winding along it for more than a mile,
they reached their own house. A small green court was
the whole of its demesne in front; and a neat wicket 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, the roof was tiled, the window
shutters were not painted green, nor were the walls covered
with honeysuckles. A narrow passage led directly through
the house into the garden behind. On each side of the
entrance was a sitting room, about sixteen feet square;
and beyond them were the offices and the stairs.
Four bed-rooms and two garrets formed the rest of the house.
It had not been built many years and was in good repair.
In comparison of Norland, it was poor and small indeed!--but
the tears which recollection called forth as they entered
the house were soon dried away. They were cheered
by the joy of the servants on their arrival, and each
for the sake of the others resolved to appear happy.
It was very early in September; the season was fine,
and from first seeing the place under the advantage
of good weather, they received an impression in its
favour which was of material service in recommending
it to their lasting approbation.
The situation of the house was good. High hills rose
immediately behind, and at no great distance on each side;
some of which were open downs, the others cultivated and woody.
The village of Barton was chiefly on one of these hills,
and formed a pleasant view from the cottage windows.
The prospect in front was more extensive; it commanded the
whole of the valley, and reached into the country beyond.
The hills which surrounded the cottage terminated
the valley in that direction; under another name,
and in another course, it branched out again between two
of the steepest of them.
With the size and furniture of the house Mrs. Dashwood
was upon the whole well satisfied; for though her former
style of life rendered many additions to the latter
indispensable, yet to add and improve was a delight to her;
and she had at this time ready money enough to supply all
that was wanted of greater elegance to the apartments.
"As for the house itself, to be sure," said she, "it is
too small for our family, but we will make ourselves
tolerably comfortable for the present, as it is too late
in the year for improvements. Perhaps in the spring,
if I have plenty of money, as I dare say I shall, we may
think about building. These parlors are both too small
for such parties of our friends as I hope to see often
collected here; and I have some thoughts of throwing the
passage into one of them with perhaps a part of the other,
and so leave the remainder of that other for an entrance;
this, with a new drawing room which may be easily added,
and a bed-chamber and garret above, will make it a very snug
little cottage. I could wish the stairs were handsome.
But one must not expect every thing; though I suppose it
would be no difficult matter to widen them. I shall see
how much I am before-hand with the world in the spring,
and we will plan our improvements accordingly."
In the mean time, till all these alterations could
be made from the savings of an income of five hundred
a-year by a woman who never saved in her life, they were
wise enough to be contented with the house as it was;
and each of them was busy in arranging their particular
concerns, and endeavoring, by placing around them books
and other possessions, to form themselves a home.
Marianne's pianoforte was unpacked and properly disposed of;
and Elinor's drawings were affixed to the walls of their
In such employments as these they were interrupted
soon after breakfast the next day by the entrance of
their landlord, who called to welcome them to Barton,
and to offer them every accommodation from his own house
and garden in which theirs might at present be deficient.
Sir John Middleton was a good looking man about forty.
He had formerly visited at Stanhill, but it was too long
for his young cousins to remember him. His countenance
was thoroughly good-humoured; and his manners were
as friendly as the style of his letter. Their arrival
seemed to afford him real satisfaction, and their comfort
to be an object of real solicitude to him. He said much
of his earnest desire of their living in the most sociable
terms with his family, and pressed them so cordially
to dine at Barton Park every day till they were better
settled at home, that, though his entreaties were carried
to a point of perseverance beyond civility, they could
not give offence. His kindness was not confined to words;
for within an hour after he left them, a large basket
full of garden stuff and fruit arrived from the park,
which was followed before the end of the day by a present
of game. He insisted, moreover, on conveying all their
letters to and from the post for them, and would not be
denied the satisfaction of sending them his newspaper
Lady Middleton had sent a very civil message by him,
denoting her intention of waiting on Mrs. Dashwood as soon as
she could be assured that her visit would be no inconvenience;
and as this message was answered by an invitation
equally polite, her ladyship was introduced to them the next day.
They were, of course, very anxious to see a person on
whom so much of their comfort at Barton must depend; and the
elegance of her appearance was favourable to their wishes.
Lady Middleton was not more than six or seven and twenty;
her face was handsome, her figure tall and striking,
and her address graceful. Her manners had all the elegance
which her husband's wanted. But they would have been
improved by some share of his frankness and warmth;
and her visit was long enough to detract something from
their first admiration, by shewing that, though perfectly
well-bred, she was reserved, cold, and had nothing to say
for herself beyond the most common-place inquiry or remark.
Conversation however was not wanted, for Sir John
was very chatty, and Lady Middleton had taken the wise
precaution of bringing with her their eldest child, a fine
little boy about six years old, by which means there was
one subject always to be recurred to by the ladies in case
of extremity, for they had to enquire his name and age,
admire his beauty, and ask him questions which his mother
answered for him, while he hung about her and held
down his head, to the great surprise of her ladyship,
who wondered at his being so shy before company, as he
could make noise enough at home. On every formal visit
a child ought to be of the party, by way of provision
for discourse. In the present case it took up ten minutes
to determine whether the boy were most like his father
or mother, and in what particular he resembled either,
for of course every body differed, and every body was
astonished at the opinion of the others.
An opportunity was soon to be given to the Dashwoods of debating on the rest of the children, as Sir John would not leave the house without securing their promise of dining at the park the next day.