Did not I tell you, Sir John, when you spoke to me about it before, that it could not be done? They dined with us last.
You and I, Sir John, said Mrs. Jennings, should not stand upon such ceremony.
Then you would be very ill-bred, cried Mr. Palmer.
My love you contradict every body, said his wife with her usual laugh. Do you know that you are quite rude?
I did not know I contradicted any body in calling your mother ill-bred.
Aye, you may abuse me as you please, said the good-natured old lady, you have taken Charlotte off my hands, and cannot give her back again. So there I have the whip hand of you.
Charlotte laughed heartily to think that her husband could not get rid of her; and exultingly said, she did not care how cross he was to her, as they must live together. It was impossible for any one to be more thoroughly good-natured, or more determined to be happy than Mrs. Palmer. The studied indifference, insolence, and discontent of her husband gave her no pain; and when he scolded or abused her, she was highly diverted.
Mr. Palmer is so droll! said she, in a whisper, to Elinor. He is always out of humour.
Elinor was not inclined, after a little observation, to give him credit for being so genuinely and unaffectedly ill-natured or ill-bred as he wished to appear. His temper might perhaps be a little soured by finding, like many others of his sex, that through some unaccountable bias in favour of beauty, he was the husband of a very silly woman,but she knew that this kind of blunder was too common for any sensible man to be lastingly hurt by it. It was rather a wish of distinction, she believed, which produced his contemptuous treatment of every body, and his general abuse of every thing before him. It was the desire of appearing superior to other people. The motive was too common to be wondered at; but the means, however they might succeed by establishing his superiority in ill-breeding, were not likely to attach any one to him except his wife.
Oh, my dear Miss Dashwood, said Mrs. Palmer soon afterwards, I have got such a favour to ask of you and your sister. Will you come and spend some time at Cleveland this Christmas? Now, pray do,and come while the Westons are with us. You cannot think how happy I shall be! It will be quite delightful!My love, applying to her husband, dont you long to have the Miss Dashwoods come to Cleveland?
Certainly, he replied, with a sneerI came into Devonshire with no other view.
There now,said his lady, you see Mr. Palmer expects you; so you cannot refuse to come.
They both eagerly and resolutely declined her invitation.
But indeed you must and shall come. I am sure you will like it of all things. The Westons will be with us, and it will be quite delightful. You cannot think what a sweet place Cleveland is; and we are so gay now, for Mr. Palmer is always going about the country canvassing against the election; and so many people came to dine with us that I never saw before, it is quite charming! But, poor fellow! it is very fatiguing to him! for he is forced to make every body like him.
Elinor could hardly keep her countenance as she assented to the hardship of such an obligation.
How charming it will be, said Charlotte, when he is in Parliament!wont it? How I shall laugh! It will be so ridiculous to see all his letters directed to him with an M.P.But do you know, he says, he will never frank for me? He declares he wont. Dont you, Mr. Palmer?
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