Fragment of a Novel Written by Jane Austen/Chapter 3

Fragment of a Novel Written by Jane Austen  (1925) 
by Jane Austen, edited by R. W. Chapman

CHAPTER 3.

Every Neighbourhood should have a great Lady.—The great Lady of Sanditon, was Lady Denham; & in their Journey from Willingden to the Coast, Mr Parker gave Charlotte a more detailed account of her, than had been called for before.—She had been necessarily often mentioned at Willingden,—for being his Colleague in Speculation, Sanditon itself could not be talked of long, without the introduction of Lady Denham & that she was a very rich old Lady, who had buried two Husbands, who knew the value of Money, was very much looked up to & had a poor Cousin living with her, were facts already well known, but some further particulars of her history & her Character served to lighten the tediousness of a long Hill, or a heavy bit of road, and to give the visiting Young Lady a suitable Knowledge of the Person with whom she might now expect to be daily associating.—Lady D. had been a rich Miss Brereton, born to Wealth but not to Education. Her first Husband had been a Mr Hollis, a man of considerable Property in the Country, of which a large share of the Parish of Sanditon, with Manor & Mansion House made a part. He had been an elderly Man when she married him;—her own age about 30.—Her motives for such a Match could be little understood at the distance of 40 years, but she had so well nursed & pleased Mr Hollis, that at his death he left her everything—all his Estates, & all at her Disposal. After a widowhood of some years, she had been induced to marry again. The late Sir Harry Denham, of Denham Park in the Neighbourhood of Sanditon had succeeded in removing her & her large Income to his own Domains, but he cd not succeed in the veiws of permanently enriching his family, which were attributed to him. She had been too wary to put anything out of her own Power—and when on Sir Harry's Decease she returned again to her own House at Sanditon, she was said to have made this boast to a friend "that though she had got nothing but her Title from the Family, still she had given nothing for it."—For the Title, it was to be supposed that she had married—& Mr P. acknowledged there being just such a degree of value for it apparent now, as to give her conduct that natural explanation. "There is at times said he—a little self-importance—but it is not offensive;—& there are moments, there are points, when her Love of Money is carried greatly too far. But she is a goodnatured Woman, a very goodnatured Woman,—a very obliging, friendly Neighbour; a chearful, independant, valuable character.—and her faults may be entirely imputed to her want of Education. She has good natural Sense, but quite uncultivated.—She has a fine active mind, as well as a fine healthy frame for a Woman of 70, & enters into the improvement of Sanditon with a spirit truly admirable—though now & then, a Littleness will appear. She cannot look forward quite as I would have her—& takes alarm at a trifling present expence, without considering what returns it will make her in a year or two. That is—we think differently, we now & then, see things differently, Miss H.—Those who tell their own Story you know must be listened to with Caution.—When you see us in contact, you will judge for yourself."—Lady D. was indeed a great Lady beyond the common wants of Society—for she had many Thousands a year to bequeath, & three distinct sets of People to be courted by; her own relations, who might very reasonably wish for her Original Thirty Thousand Pounds among them, the legal Heirs of Mr Hollis, who must hope to be more endebted to her sense of Justice than he had allowed them to be to his, and those Members of the Denham Family, whom her 2d Husband had hoped to make a good Bargain for.—By all of these, or by Branches of them, she had no doubt been long, & still continued to be, well attacked;— and of these three divisions, Mr P. did not hesitate to say that Mr Hollis' Kindred were the least in favour & Sir Harry Denham's the most.—The former he beleived, had done themselves irremediable harm by expressions of very unwise & unjustifiable resentment at the time of Mr. Hollis's death;—the Latter, to the advantage of being the remnant of a Connection which she certainly valued, joined those of having been known to her from their Childhood, & of being always at hand to preserve their interest by reasonable attention. Sir Edward, the present Baronet, nephew to Sir Harry, resided constantly at Denham Park; & Mr P—had little doubt, that he & his Sister Miss D—who lived with him, wd be principally remembered in her Will. He sincerely hoped it.—Miss Denham had a very small provision—& her Brother was a poor Man for his rank in Society. "He is a warm friend to Sanditon—said Mr Parker—& his hand wd be as liberal as his heart, had he the Power.—He would be a noble Coadjutor!—As it is, he does what he can & is running up a tasteful little Cottage Ornèe, on a strip of Waste Ground Lady D. has granted him, which I have no doubt we shall have many a Candidate for, before the end even of this Season." Till within the last twelvemonth, Mr P. had considered Sir Edw: as standing without a rival, as having the fairest chance of succeeding to the greater part of all that she had to give—but there was now another person's claims to be taken into the account, those of the young female relation, whom Lady D. had been induced to receive into her Family. After having always protested against any such Addition, and long & often enjoyed the repeated defeats she had given to every attempt of her relations to introduce this young Lady, or that young Lady as a Companion at Sanditon House, she had brought back with her from London last Michaelmas a Miss Brereton, who bid fair by her Merits to vie in favour with Sir Edward, and to secure for herself & her family that share of the accumulated Property which they had certainly the best right to inherit.—Mr Parker spoke warmly of Clara Brereton, & the interest of his story increased very much with the introduction of such a Character. Charlotte listened with more than amusement now;—it was solicitude & Enjoyment, as she heard her described to be lovely, amiable, gentle, unassuming, conducting herself uniformly with great good sense, & evidently gaining by her innate worth, on the affections of her Patroness.—Beauty, Sweetness, Poverty & Dependance, do not want the imagination of a Man to operate upon. With due exceptions—Woman feels for Woman very promptly & compassionately. He gave the particulars which had led to Clara's admission at Sanditon, as no bad exemplification of that mixture of Character, that union of Littleness with Kindness with Good Sence with even Liberality which he saw in Lady D.— After having avoided London for many years, principally on account of these very Cousins, who were continually writing, inviting & tormenting her, & whom she was determined to keep at a distance, she had been obliged to go there last Michaelmas with the certainty of being detained at least a fortnight.—She had gone to an Hotel—living by her own account as prudently as possible, to defy the reputed expensiveness of such a home, & at the end of three Days calling for her Bill, that she might judge of her state.—It's amount was such as determined her on staying not another hour in the House, & she was preparing in all the anger & perturbation which a beleif of very gross imposition there, & an ignorance of where to go for better usage, to leave the Hotel at all hazards, when the Cousins, the politic & lucky Cousins, who seemed always to have a spy on her, introduced themselves at this important moment, & learning her situation, persuaded her to accept such a home for the rest of her stay as their humbler house in a very inferior part of London, cd offer.—She went; was delighted with her welcome & the hospitality & attention she received from every body—found her good Cousins the B—— beyond her expectation worthy people—& finally was impelled by a personal knowledge of their narrow Income & pecuniary difficulties, to invite one of the girls of the family to pass the Winter with her. The invitation was to one, for six months—with the probability of another being then to take her place;—but in selecting the one, Lady D. had shewn the good part of her Character—for passing by the actual daughters of the House, she had chosen Clara, a Neice—, more helpless & more pitiable of course than any—a dependant on Poverty—an additional Burthen on an encumbered Circle—& one, who had been so low in every worldly veiw, as with all her natural endowments & powers, to have been preparing for a situation little better than a Nursery Maid.—Clara had returned with her—& by her good sence & merit had now, to all appearance secured a very strong hold in Lady D.'s regard. The six months had long been over—& not a syllable was breathed of any change, or exchange.—She was a general favourite;—the influence of her steady conduct & mild, gentle Temper was felt by everybody. The prejudices which had met her at first in some quarters, were all dissipated. She was felt to be worthy of Trust—to be the very companion who wd guide & soften Lady D— who wd enlarge her mind & open her hand.—She was as thoroughly amiable as she was lovely—& since having had the advantage of their Sanditon Breezes, that Loveliness was complete.