The first part of their journey was performed in too melancholy a dispositio_o be otherwise than tedious and unpleasant. But as they drew towards the en_f it, their interest in the appearance of a country which they were t_nhabit overcame their dejection, and a view of Barton Valley as they entere_t gave them cheerfulness. It was a pleasant fertile spot, well wooded, an_ich in pasture. After winding along it for more than a mile, they reache_heir 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 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 wit_oneysuckles. A narrow passage led directly through the house into the garde_ehind. On each side of the entrance was a sitting room, about sixteen fee_quare; and beyond them were the offices and the stairs. Four bed-rooms an_wo garrets formed the rest of the house. It had not been built many years an_as in good repair. In comparison of Norland, it was poor and smal_ndeed!—but the tears which recollection called forth as they entered th_ouse were soon dried away. They were cheered by the joy of the servants o_heir 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 th_lace under the advantage of good weather, they received an impression in it_avour which was of material service in recommending it to their lastin_pprobation.
The situation of the house was good. High hills rose immediately behind, an_t no great distance on each side; some of which were open downs, the other_ultivated 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 wa_ore extensive; it commanded the whole of the valley, and reached into th_ountry beyond. The hills which surrounded the cottage terminated the valle_n that direction; under another name, and in another course, it branched ou_gain between two of the steepest of them.
With the size and furniture of the house Mrs. Dashwood was upon the whole wel_atisfied; for though her former style of life rendered many additions to th_atter indispensable, yet to add and improve was a delight to her; and she ha_t this time ready money enough to supply all that was wanted of greate_legance 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 tolerabl_omfortable 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, w_ay think about building. These parlors are both too small for such parties o_ur friends as I hope to see often collected here; and I have some thoughts o_hrowing the passage into one of them with perhaps a part of the other, and s_eave the remainder of that other for an entrance; this, with a new drawin_oom which may be easily added, and a bed-chamber and garret above, will mak_t a very snug little cottage. I could wish the stairs were handsome. But on_ust not expect every thing; though I suppose it would be no difficult matte_o widen them. I shall see how much I am before-hand with the world in th_pring, and we will plan our improvements accordingly."
In the mean time, till all these alterations could be made from the savings o_n income of five hundred a-year by a woman who never saved in her life, the_ere wise enough to be contented with the house as it was; and each of the_as busy in arranging their particular concerns, and endeavoring, by placin_round them books and other possessions, to form themselves a home. Marianne'_ianoforte was unpacked and properly disposed of; and Elinor's drawings wer_ffixed to the walls of their sitting room.
In such employments as these they were interrupted soon after breakfast th_ext day by the entrance of their landlord, who called to welcome them t_arton, and to offer them every accommodation from his own house and garden i_hich theirs might at present be deficient. Sir John Middleton was a goo_ooking man about forty. He had formerly visited at Stanhill, but it was to_ong for his young cousins to remember him. His countenance was thoroughl_ood-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 b_n object of real solicitude to him. He said much of his earnest desire o_heir living in the most sociable terms with his family, and pressed them s_ordially to dine at Barton Park every day till they were better settled a_ome, that, though his entreaties were carried to a point of perseveranc_eyond civility, they could not give offence. His kindness was not confined t_ords; for within an hour after he left them, a large basket full of garde_tuff and fruit arrived from the park, which was followed before the end o_he day by a present of game. He insisted, moreover, on conveying all thei_etters to and from the post for them, and would not be denied th_atisfaction of sending them his newspaper every day.
Lady Middleton had sent a very civil message by him, denoting her intention o_aiting on Mrs. Dashwood as soon as she could be assured that her visit woul_e no inconvenience; and as this message was answered by an invitation equall_olite, her ladyship was introduced to them the next day.
They were, of course, very anxious to see a person on whom so much of thei_omfort at Barton must depend; and the elegance of her appearance wa_avourable to their wishes. Lady Middleton was not more than six or seven an_wenty; her face was handsome, her figure tall and striking, and her addres_raceful. Her manners had all the elegance which her husband's wanted. Bu_hey would have been improved by some share of his frankness and warmth; an_er visit was long enough to detract something from their first admiration, b_hewing that, though perfectly well-bred, she was reserved, cold, and ha_othing to say for herself beyond the most common-place inquiry or remark.
Conversation however was not wanted, for Sir John was very chatty, and Lad_iddleton had taken the wise precaution of bringing with her their eldes_hild, a fine little boy about six years old, by which means there was on_ubject always to be recurred to by the ladies in case of extremity, for the_ad to enquire his name and age, admire his beauty, and ask him question_hich his mother answered for him, while he hung about her and held down hi_ead, to the great surprise of her ladyship, who wondered at his being so sh_efore company, as he could make noise enough at home. On every formal visit _hild ought to be of the party, by way of provision for discourse. In th_resent case it took up ten minutes to determine whether the boy were mos_ike his father or mother, and in what particular he resembled either, for o_ourse every body differed, and every body was astonished at the opinion o_he others.
An opportunity was soon to be given to the Dashwoods of debating on the res_f the children, as Sir John would not leave the house without securing thei_romise of dining at the park the next day.