Chapter 18

`I hope I shall soon have the pleasure of introducing my son to you,' said Mr. Weston.

Mrs. Elton, very willing to suppose a particular compliment intended her by such a hope, smiled most graciously.

`You have heard of a certain Frank Churchill, I presume,' he continued - `and know him to be my son, though he does not bear my name.'

`Oh! yes, and I shall be very happy in his acquaintance. I am sure Mr. Elton will lose no time in calling on him; and we shall both have great pleasure in seeing him at the Vicarage.'

`You are very obliging. - Frank will be extremely happy, I am sure. - He is to be in town next week, if not sooner. We have notice of it in a letter to-day. I met the letters in my way this morning, and seeing my son's hand, presumed to open it - though it was not directed to me - it was to Mrs. Weston. She is his principal correspondent, I assure you. I hardly ever get a letter.'

`And so you absolutely opened what was directed to her! Oh! Mr. Weston - (laughing affectedly) I must protest against that. - A most dangerous precedent indeed! - I beg you will not let your neighbours follow your example. - Upon my word, if this is what I am to expect, we married women must begin to exert ourselves! - Oh! Mr. Weston, I could not have believed it of you!'

`Aye, we men are sad fellows. You must take care of yourself, Mrs. Elton. - This letter tells us - it is a short letter - written in a hurry, merely to give us notice - it tells us that they are all coming up to town directly, on Mrs. Churchill's account - she has not been well the whole winter, and thinks Enscombe too cold for her - so they are all to move southward without loss of time.'

`Indeed! - from Yorkshire, I think. Enscombe is in Yorkshire?'

`Yes, they are about one hundred and ninety miles from London. a considerable journey.'

`Yes, upon my word, very considerable. Sixty-five miles farther than from Maple Grove to London. But what is distance, Mr. Weston, to people of large fortune? - You would be amazed to hear how my brother, Mr. Suckling, sometimes flies about. You will hardly believe me - but twice in one week he and Mr. Bragge went to London and back again with four horses.'

`The evil of the distance from Enscombe,' said Mr. Weston, `is, that Mrs. Churchill, as we understand, has not been able to leave the sofa for a week together. In Frank's last letter she complained, he said, of being too weak to get into her conservatory without having both his arm and his uncle's! This, you know, speaks a great degree of weakness - but now she is so impatient to be in town, that she means to sleep only two nights on the road. - So Frank writes word. Certainly, delicate ladies have very extraordinary constitutions, Mrs. Elton. You must grant me that.'

`No, indeed, I shall grant you nothing. I Always take the part of my own sex. I do indeed. I give you notice - You will find me a formidable antagonist on that point. I always stand up for women - and I assure you, if you knew how Selina feels with respect to sleeping at an inn, you would not wonder at Mrs. Churchill's making incredible exertions to avoid it. Selina says it is quite horror to her - and I believe I have caught a little of her nicety. She always travels with her own sheets; an excellent precaution. Does Mrs. Churchill do the same?'

`Depend upon it, Mrs. Churchill does every thing that any other fine lady ever did. Mrs. Churchill will not be second to any lady in the land for' -

Mrs. Elton eagerly interposed with,

`Oh! Mr. Weston, do not mistake me. Selina is no fine lady, I assure you. Do not run away with such an idea.'

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