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And to bebetter acquainted therefore

But unfortunately in bestowing these embraces, a pin in her ladyship'shead dress slightly scratching the child's neck, produced from thispattern of gentleness such violent screams, as could hardly be outdoneby any creature professedly noisy. The mother's consternation wasexcessive; but it could not surpass the alarm of the Miss Steeles, andevery thing was done by all three, in so critical an emergency, whichaffection could suggest as likely to assuage the agonies of the littlesufferer. She was seated in her mother's lap, covered with kisses, herwound bathed with lavender-water, by one of the Miss Steeles, who wason her knees to attend her, and her mouth stuffed with sugar plums bythe other. With such a reward for her tears, the child was too wise tocease crying.

She still screamed and sobbed lustily, kicked her twobrothers for offering to touch her, and all their united soothings wereineffectual till Lady Middleton luckily remembering that in a scene ofsimilar distress last week, some apricot marmalade had beensuccessfully applied for a bruised temple, the same remedy was eagerlyproposed for this unfortunate scratch, and a slight intermission ofscreams in the young lady on hearing it, gave them reason to hope thatit would not be rejected.-- She was carried out of the room thereforein her mother's arms, in quest of this medicine, and as the two boyschose to follow, though earnestly entreated by their mother to staybehind, the four young ladies were left in a quietness which the roomhad not known for many hours.

This specimen of the Miss Steeles was enough. The vulgar freedom andfolly of the eldest left her no recommendation, and as Elinor was notblinded by the beauty, or the shrewd look of the youngest, to her wantof real elegance and artlessness, she left the house without any wishof knowing them better.

Not so the Miss Steeles.--They came from Exeter, well provided withadmiration for the use of Sir John Middleton, his family, and all hisrelations, and no niggardly proportion was now dealt out to his faircousins, whom they declared to be the most beautiful, elegant,accomplished, and agreeable girls they had ever beheld, and with whomthey were particularly anxious to be better acquainted.

Elinor soon found was their inevitablelot, for as Sir John was entirely on the side of the Miss Steeles,their party would be too strong for opposition, and that kind ofintimacy must be submitted to, which consists of sitting an hour or twotogether in the same room almost every day. Sir John could do no more;but he did not know that any more was required: to be together was, inhis opinion, to be intimate, and while his continual schemes for theirmeeting were effectual, he had not a doubt of their being establishedfriends.

To do him justice, he did every thing in his power to promote theirunreserve, by making the Miss Steeles acquainted with whatever he knewor supposed of his cousins' situations in the most delicateparticulars,--and Elinor had not seen them more than twice, before theeldest of them wished her joy on her sister's having been so lucky asto make a conquest of a very smart beau since she came to Barton.

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