Our Cousins, the Dalrymples
Since I first read Persuasion, I have wondered exactly what went on when the two eldest Elliot paid a call on 'their cousins, the Dalrymples' (one of my favorite phrases), and how the Dalrymples were persuaded to renew their acquaintance with two such odious people as Sir Walter and Miss Elliot.
Sir Walter Elliot, being somewhat of a peacock, was not above paying his respects to those above him when they were due, and when there was some gain to be had for himself or his eldest daughter. Accordingly he and Miss Elliot waited on 'their cousins, the Dalrymples' (for as such they were spoken of to all of the Elliots' acquaintance) at the earliest convenience of the Dowager Viscountess Dalrymple and the Honorable Miss Carteret.
Upon being shown into the second-finest drawing-room in the house in Laura Place, Sir Walter, with all the force of his great charm, was disposed to once again apologize for the sad misunderstanding which had parted the two branches of the family for so many years, and to add (if he may be so bold) that he was pleased to find that Lady Dalrymple had never looked in finer health nor had a more exceptional complexion. He was able to bestow similar compliments upon Miss Carteret, although thinking privately of how plain and awkward she appeared, and how ill the light in the room suited her complexion.
Miss Elliot, meanwhile, on being invited to sit, placed herself elegantly upon the sofa which seated Miss Carteret, and engaged her in a conversation in which she felt all the effort to be on her side. Upon being asked how she liked Bath, Miss Carteret replied, 'oh! I do not know!'. Miss Elliot made similar inquiries as to Miss Carteret's engagements since her coming out (oh! ever so many!), and her skill on the pianoforte (oh! her mamma thought her very accomplished!), and would have almost given up had the conversation not somehow turned to the late Viscount. Miss Carteret was never so voluble and coherent as when speaking of her father, and although privately counting Miss Carteret's freckles in dismay, Miss Elliot gave every appearance of being a most attentive and sympathetic listener.
Lady Dalrymple was ready with concise, polite replies to Sir Elliot's enquiries as to her home in Ireland, her journey to Bath, and how that place suited her. Upon the last, however, she latched upon a current favorite subject of hers, being a long list of her acquaintances who had suggested she stay some months at Bath, together with their reasons for doing so. Her nearest neighbor and close friend, Mrs Henry Allanton, had recommended Bath as a source of amusement for Miss Carteret, who, although she had been out these seven months, still would giggle and blush when engaged to dance. Her apothecary, Mr. Laing, had assured her that a few months at Bath would be be most beneficial for her health - she suffered at times from headaches. In this vein Lady Dalrymple continued for some ten minutes, and although Sir Walter had more patience for those of noble birth than for those who were not so lucky, he found himself wishing most decidedly for the distraction of the tea-things.
After tea had been drunk (and praised by the Elliots), Lady Dalrymple confessed to feeling not a little fatigue, and Sir Walter, understanding the hint some minutes later, expressed profound regret that he and Miss Elliot, being engaged elsewhere, must take their leave.
The visit was at an end, and Sir Walter Elliot and his daughter quit the Dalrymple establishment in Laura Place with all the hearty self-congratulation due to them for the re-establishment of the connection, and the increase in consequence it must bring them.
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