Barton Park was about half a mile from the cottage.
The ladies had passed near it in their way along the valley,
but it was screened from their view at home by the
projection of a hill. The house was large and handsome;
and the Middletons lived in a style of equal hospitality
and elegance. The former was for Sir John's gratification,
the latter for that of his lady. They were scarcely
ever without some friends staying with them in the house,
and they kept more company of every kind than any other
family in the neighbourhood. It was necessary to the
happiness of both; for however dissimilar in temper
and outward behaviour, they strongly resembled each other
in that total want of talent and taste which confined
their employments, unconnected with such as society produced,
within a very narrow compass. Sir John was a sportsman,
Lady Middleton a mother. He hunted and shot, and she
humoured her children; and these were their only resources.
Lady Middleton had the advantage of being able to spoil her
children all the year round, while Sir John's independent
employments were in existence only half the time.
Continual engagements at home and abroad, however,
supplied all the deficiencies of nature and education;
supported the good spirits of Sir John, and gave exercise
to the good breeding of his wife.
Lady Middleton piqued herself upon the elegance
of her table, and of all her domestic arrangements;
and from this kind of vanity was her greatest enjoyment
in any of their parties. But Sir John's satisfaction
in society was much more real; he delighted in collecting
about him more young people than his house would hold,
and the noisier they were the better was he pleased.
He was a blessing to all the juvenile part of the neighbourhood,
for in summer he was for ever forming parties to eat cold
ham and chicken out of doors, and in winter his private
balls were numerous enough for any young lady who was not
suffering under the unsatiable appetite of fifteen.
The arrival of a new family in the country was always
a matter of joy to him, and in every point of view he was
charmed with the inhabitants he had now procured for his
cottage at Barton. The Miss Dashwoods were young, pretty,
and unaffected. It was enough to secure his good opinion;
for to be unaffected was all that a pretty girl could
want to make her mind as captivating as her person.
The friendliness of his disposition made him happy in
accommodating those, whose situation might be considered,
in comparison with the past, as unfortunate. In showing
kindness to his cousins therefore he had the real satisfaction
of a good heart; and in settling a family of females only
in his cottage, he had all the satisfaction of a sportsman;
for a sportsman, though he esteems only those of his sex who
are sportsmen likewise, is not often desirous of encouraging
their taste by admitting them to a residence within his own manor.
Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters were met at the door
of the house by Sir John, who welcomed them to Barton
Park with unaffected sincerity; and as he attended them
to the drawing room repeated to the young ladies the concern
which the same subject had drawn from him the day before,
at being unable to get any smart young men to meet them.
They would see, he said, only one gentleman there
besides himself; a particular friend who was staying at
the park, but who was neither very young nor very gay.
He hoped they would all excuse the smallness of the party,
and could assure them it should never happen so again.
He had been to several families that morning in hopes
of procuring some addition to their number, but it
was moonlight and every body was full of engagements.
Luckily Lady Middleton's mother had arrived at Barton
within the last hour, and as she was a very cheerful
agreeable woman, he hoped the young ladies would not find
it so very dull as they might imagine. The young ladies,
as well as their mother, were perfectly satisfied with
having two entire strangers of the party, and wished for
Mrs. Jennings, Lady Middleton's mother, was a
good-humoured, merry, fat, elderly woman, who talked a
great deal, seemed very happy, and rather vulgar. She was full
of jokes and laughter, and before dinner was over had said
many witty things on the subject of lovers and husbands;
hoped they had not left their hearts behind them in Sussex,
and pretended to see them blush whether they did or not.
Marianne was vexed at it for her sister's sake, and turned
her eyes towards Elinor to see how she bore these attacks,
with an earnestness which gave Elinor far more pain than
could arise from such common-place raillery as Mrs. Jennings's.
Colonel Brandon, the friend of Sir John, seemed no
more adapted by resemblance of manner to be his friend,
than Lady Middleton was to be his wife, or Mrs. Jennings
to be Lady Middleton's mother. He was silent and grave.
His appearance however was not unpleasing, in spite
of his being in the opinion of Marianne and Margaret
an absolute old bachelor, for he was on the wrong side
of five and thirty; but though his face was not handsome,
his countenance was sensible, and his address was
There was nothing in any of the party which could
recommend them as companions to the Dashwoods; but the cold
insipidity of Lady Middleton was so particularly repulsive,
that in comparison of it the gravity of Colonel Brandon,
and even the boisterous mirth of Sir John and his
mother-in-law was interesting. Lady Middleton seemed
to be roused to enjoyment only by the entrance of her
four noisy children after dinner, who pulled her about,
tore her clothes, and put an end to every kind of discourse
except what related to themselves.
In the evening, as Marianne was discovered to be musical,
she was invited to play. The instrument was unlocked,
every body prepared to be charmed, and Marianne,
who sang very well, at their request went through the
chief of the songs which Lady Middleton had brought into
the family on her marriage, and which perhaps had lain
ever since in the same position on the pianoforte,
for her ladyship had celebrated that event by giving
up music, although by her mother's account, she had
played extremely well, and by her own was very fond of it.
Marianne's performance was highly applauded. Sir John was loud in his admiration at the end of every song, and as loud in his conversation with the others while every song lasted. Lady Middleton frequently called him to order, wondered how any one's attention could be diverted from music for a moment, and asked Marianne to sing a particular song which Marianne had just finished. Colonel Brandon alone, of all the party, heard her without being in raptures. He paid her only the compliment of attention; and she felt a respect for him on the occasion, which the others had reasonably forfeited by their shameless want of taste. His pleasure in music, though it amounted not to that ecstatic delight which alone could sympathize with her own, was estimable when contrasted against the horrible insensibility of the others; and she was reasonable enough to allow that a man of five and thirty might well have outlived all acuteness of feeling and every exquisite power of enjoyment. She was perfectly disposed to make every allowance for the colonel's advanced state of life which humanity required.