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Sneaking a Peek at Sense & Sensibility Entry 20

People: Elinor, Marianne, and Charlotte Palmer

Text: Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret entered the parlor at Barton Park the next day, only to be subjected to a continuance of the visit at their cottage. Mr. Palmer said almost nothing. But Mrs. Palmer and her mother, Mrs. Jennings, had much to say. Their ability to carry on a conversation with little encouragement or affirmation was skilled.

               After dinner, Elinor found herself discussing Marianne’s supposed engagement to Mr. Willoughby with Charlotte Palmer, who had had the information by a reliable source. Elinor tried to sway her away from the subject with little success.

               Mrs. Palmer said, “I know why you enquire about him (Mr. Willoughby) very well; your sister is to marry him. I am monstrous glad of it, for then I shall have her as a neighbor you know.”

               “Upon my word,” replied Elinor, “you know much more of the matter than I do, if you have any reason to expect such a match.”

               “It is what everybody talks of. I met Colonel Brandon Monday morning in Bond-street, just as we left town, and he told me of it directly.”

               “You surprise me very much,” Elinor said. “Colonel Brandon tell you of it! Surely you must be mistaken. To give such intelligence to a person who could not be interested in it, is not what I should expect Colonel Brandon to do.”

               Mr. Palmer answered, “I said to him, ‘So Colonel, there is a new family come to Barton Cottage, and mama sends me word that they are very pretty, and that one of them is going to be married to Mr. Willoughby of Combe Magna. Is it true pray?’”

               “And what did the Colonel say?” Elinor asked.

               “Oh! He did not say much; but he looked as if he knew it to be true, so from that moment I set it down as certain. It will be quite delightful I declare!”

Emotion: intrusion

Insight: Proverbs 18:8 knows Mrs. Palmer well, “The words of a whisperer (gossip) are like delicious morsel; they go down to the inner parts of the body.”

Mrs. Palmer, just like her mother Mrs. Jennings, loves to indulge in the self-soothing habit of gossip. She spent some time assuring Elinor that the news of Marianne’s being engaged to Mr. Willoughby was well known on the streets of London. And when she declared that she had been assured of it by Colonel Brandon himself, Elinor was truly surprised. She didn’t think that Brandon would stoop to such a dialogue. When Mrs. Palmer betrayed that the information was gained by only a strange look on the Colonel’s face, Elinor knew the depths that this lady would go to in order to secure a bit of gossip.

               To Mrs. Palmer, and many who indulge in the habit of gossip, the ability to share juicy tidbits of information is more delectable than the habit of snacking on delicious morsels. May we be as wise as Elinor and take into account the character of the people being included in the gossip. Trusting Colonel Brandon’s sterling reputation, Elinor was sure that he would not share such information. And she was right. The whole morsel was based on a mere expression on the Colonel’s face. Let us be wise to avoid the habit of gossip and embrace the wisdom of Elinor and the character of Colonel Brandon and avoid being duped by these delicious words.

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