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Chapter 9
The Dashwoods were now settled at Barton with tolerable comfort to themselves.
The house and the garden, with all the objects surrounding them, were now
become familiar, and the ordinary pursuits which had given to Norland half its
charms were engaged in again with far greater enjoyment than Norland had been
able to afford, since the loss of their father. Sir John Middleton, who called on
them every day for the first fortnight, and who was not in the habit of seeing
much occupation at home, could not conceal his amazement on finding them
always employed.
Their visitors, except those from Barton Park, were not many; for, in spite of Sir
John's urgent entreaties that they would mix more in the neighbourhood, and
repeated assurances of his carriage being always at their service, the
independence of Mrs. Dashwood's spirit overcame the wish of society for her
children; and she was resolute in declining to visit any family beyond the distance
of a walk. There were but few who could be so classed; and it was not all of them
that were attainable. About a mile and a half from the cottage, along the narrow
winding valley of Allenham, which issued from that of Barton, as formerly
described, the girls had, in one of their earliest walks, discovered an ancient
respectable looking mansion which, by reminding them a little of Norland,
interested their imagination and made them wish to be better acquainted with it.
But they learnt, on enquiry, that its possessor, an elderly lady of very good
character, was unfortunately too infirm to mix with the world, and never stirred
from home.
The whole country about them abounded in beautiful walks. The high downs
which invited them from almost every window of the cottage to seek the exquisite
enjoyment of air on their summits, were a happy alternative when the dirt of the
valleys beneath shut up their superior beauties; and towards one of these hills
did Marianne and Margaret one memorable morning direct their steps, attracted
by the partial sunshine of a showery sky, and unable longer to bear the
confinement which the settled rain of the two preceding days had occasioned.
The weather was not tempting enough to draw the two others from their pencil
and their book, in spite of Marianne's declaration that the day would be lastingly
fair, and that every threatening cloud would be drawn off from their hills; and the
two girls set off together.
They gaily ascended the downs, rejoicing in their own penetration at every
glimpse of blue sky; and when they caught in their faces the animating gales of a
high south-westerly wind, they pitied the fears which had prevented their mother
and Elinor from sharing such delightful sensations.
"Is there a felicity in the world," said Marianne, "superior to this?--Margaret, we
will walk here at least two hours."
Margaret agreed, and they pursued their way against the wind, resisting it with
laughing delight for about twenty minutes longer, when suddenly the clouds
united over their heads, and a driving rain set full in their face.-- Chagrined and
surprised, they were obliged, though unwillingly, to turn back, for no shelter was