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Chapter 7
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
insatiable 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