One morning, about a week after Edward left Barton Cottage, Elinor was sitting at her little table again. She was drawing a picture and thinking of Edward. Suddenly, she heard the sound of the garden gate opening. She stood up and looked out of the window.
Five visitors were standing at the front door of the cottage — one of them was Sir John Middleton. He knocked on the window and Elinor opened it.
Sir John put his head in through the window and said, ‘I have brought some strangers to see you. Tell me what you think of them!’ And he laughed.
Before Elinor could reply, Mrs Jennings shouted through the window too.
‘How are you, my dear?’ the old lady cried cheerfully. ‘I have brought my younger daughter, Charlotte, to see you.
Her husband, Mr Palmer, is here too.’
Elinor ran to the front door and opened it. Margaret and Mrs Dashwood had heard the voices, and immediately they came downstairs to welcome their visitors. Soon they were all drinking tea in the sitting-room.
Charlotte Palmer was very different from her elder sister, Lady Middleton. Charlotte was short, with a round pretty face. She talked and smiled all the time — except when she was laughing.
Mr Palmer bowed to the ladies and did not say anything. Then he sat down, picked up a newspaper, and began to read it.
‘What a sweet place this is now, Mrs Dashwood!’ said Charlotte. ‘You have made this room so comfortable! And look at these pretty drawings! Are they yours, Miss Dashwood? How clever you are! Do you not agree, Mr Palmer?’
Mr Palmer went on reading his paper and did not say a word.
‘We were so surprised when Charlotte and Thomas arrived last night,’ Mrs Jennings said with a laugh. ‘Charlotte should not have travelled. She is expecting a child in February. But she is here, so you must all come to dinner tomorrow. Miss Marianne must come too.’
‘Yes, you must come,’ Sir John said. ‘If the weather is bad, I will send my carriage for you.’
However, the following day, only Elinor and Marianne went to Barton Park. Mrs Dashwood and Margaret stayed at home.
As Marianne and Elinor walked into the drawing-room of Barton Park, Mrs Jennings greeted the sisters in her usual, cheerful way. Charlotte stood up, smiled happily, and ran across the room to speak to the Dashwood sisters.
‘I am so glad that you have come today. Mr Palmer and I have to leave tomorrow,’ she said with a laugh. ‘But we will all meet again in London. Very soon, I hope.’
‘We are not going to London this winter,’ Elinor said.
‘You are not going to London!’ Charlotte cried. ‘But you must, Miss Dashwood!
‘My dear Mr Palmer,’ Charlotte said to her husband as he came into the room, ‘you must persuade the Miss Dashwoods to go to London this winter. Willoughby is sure to be there,’ she added, smiling at Marianne.
Mr Palmer did not answer. He looked out of the window and began to complain about the weather. It was now the month of November and cold winds were blowing.
Elinor and Charlotte went and sat near Mrs Jennings.
‘Willoughby lives near you in Somerset, I believe,’ Elinor said to Charlotte. ‘Do you know him well?’
‘Oh, very well, though I have never spoken to him. We have never met in Somerset, but I have seen him many times in London. Everyone there knows that your sister will marry Willoughby. Colonel Brandon told me this, when I saw him in London.’
‘Are you sure?’ Elinor asked in surprise.
‘Well, my mother wrote and told me about your sister and Willoughby,’ Charlotte said. ‘So when I saw the Colonel, I asked him. He did not answer me immediately. But he believes that they will marry, I am sure.
‘You believe this too, do you not, mama?’ Charlotte said, looking at Mrs Jennings.
Elinor was very surprised by Charlotte’s words and she wanted to hear more. ‘Do you know Colonel Brandon well?’ she asked.
‘Oh, yes,’ Charlotte said with a laugh. ‘A few years ago, the Colonel wanted to marry me. But my mother decided that I must marry Mr Palmer and I am very happy with him.’
When he heard his name, Mr Palmer looked up from his newspaper and frowned. Mrs Jennings saw the frown on her son-in-law’s face and laughed.
‘Well, you can be angry now, Mr Palmer, but it is too late!’ she cried. ‘You married my Charlotte and you cannot give her back to me. We do not care about your frowns at all!’
The Palmers left Barton Park the next day, but the Middletons soon had some other visitors.
Mrs Jennings went to Exeter. While she was there, she met Anne and Lucy Steele, two young ladies who were her relations. Sir John invited them to Barton Park and they arrived a few days later.
The Miss Steeles were delighted to be at Barton Park and they were very polite to Sir John and Lady Middleton. The young ladies praised everything at Barton Park — the house, its furniture and, most of all, Lady Middletons children. That, of course, pleased their parents very much.
Sir John talked excitedly about the new visitors when he saw the Dashwoods the next day.
‘You must come and meet the Miss Steeles!’ Sir John said. ‘Lady Middleton says that they are the sweetest girls in the world! Lucy is so pretty and she is so kind to the children. She is always playing with them. Our visitors want to meet you, of course. You must come to Barton Park this week.’