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Chapter 36
Within a few days after this meeting, the newspapers announced to the world,
that the lady of Thomas Palmer, Esq. was safely delivered of a son and heir; a
very interesting and satisfactory paragraph, at least to all those intimate
connections who knew it before.
This event, highly important to Mrs. Jennings's happiness, produced a temporary
alteration in the disposal of her time, and influenced, in a like degree, the
engagements of her young friends; for as she wished to be as much as possible
with Charlotte, she went thither every morning as soon as she was dressed, and
did not return till late in the evening; and the Miss Dashwoods, at the particular
request of the Middletons, spent the whole of every day, in every day in Conduit
Street. For their own comfort they would much rather have remained, at least all
the morning, in Mrs. Jennings's house; but it was not a thing to be urged against
the wishes of everybody. Their hours were therefore made over to Lady
Middleton and the two Miss Steeles, by whom their company, in fact was as little
valued, as it was professedly sought.
They had too much sense to be desirable companions to the former; and by the
latter they were considered with a jealous eye, as intruding on their ground, and
sharing the kindness which they wanted to monopolize. Though nothing could be
more polite than Lady Middleton's behaviour to Elinor and Marianne, she did not
really like them at all. Because they neither flattered herself nor her children, she
could not believe them good-natured; and because they were fond of reading,
she fancied them satirical: perhaps without exactly knowing what it was to be
satirical; but that did not signify. It was censure in common use, and easily given.
Their presence was a restraint both on her and on Lucy. It checked the idleness
of one, and the business of the other. Lady Middleton was ashamed of doing
nothing before them, and the flattery which Lucy was proud to think of and
administer at other times, she feared they would despise her for offering. Miss
Steele was the least discomposed of the three, by their presence; and it was in
their power to reconcile her to it entirely. Would either of them only have given
her a full and minute account of the whole affair between Marianne and Mr.
Willoughby, she would have thought herself amply rewarded for the sacrifice of
the best place by the fire after dinner, which their arrival occasioned. But this
conciliation was not granted; for though she often threw out expressions of pity
for her sister to Elinor, and more than once dropt a reflection on the inconstancy
of beaux before Marianne, no effect was produced, but a look of indifference
from the former, or of disgust in the latter. An effort even yet lighter might have
made her their friend. Would they only have laughed at her about the Doctor! But
so little were they, anymore than the others, inclined to oblige her, that if Sir John
dined from home, she might spend a whole day without hearing any other raillery
on the subject, than what she was kind enough to bestow on herself.
All these jealousies and discontents, however, were so totally unsuspected by
Mrs. Jennings, that she thought it a delightful thing for the girls to be together;
and generally congratulated her young friends every night, on having escaped