The Palmers went back to their home at Cleveland the next day. Before long, though, Sir John and Mrs. Jennings had more guests to introduce to the Dashwood: Anne and Lucy Steele, two young women, both relatives of Mrs. Jennings. They were fashionable, well-mannered, and fond of Lady Middleton’s young children.
Sir John is never long without guests or visiting friends, and is always eager to introduce the Dashwoods to all of his societal acquaintances.
Elinor and Marianne went to Barton Park to meet the Steeles. They both found “nothing to admire” in the older Steele sister, Anne, but thought the younger one, Lucy, to be beautiful. Elinor thought that their good manners showed they had some good sense, though she was annoyed by their fawning over Lady Middleton’s children.
Elinor and Marianne quickly attempt to decipher the character of the Steele sisters. Their excessive fawning over Lady Middleton’s children is a strategic attempt to ingratiate themselves with Lady Middleton.
While embracing one of the children, Lucy accidentally scratched her just slightly with her hairpin and the child cried hysterically. Anne said, “It might have been a very sad accident,” but Marianne thought it was really nothing to be concerned about. The Steele sisters talked about how fond they were of the Middletons, and the Dashwood sisters agreed politely.
Marianne and Elinor agree politely that they are fond of the Middletons’ company, but Lucy and Anne seem to be over the top in their fondness and concern for the Middleton children, eager to gain the Middletons as friends.
The Steeles asked Elinor and Marianne about Norland and whether they had “a great many smart beaux there.” Elinor politely said that she did not know what they meant by “beaux.” Throughout the conversation, Anne Steele was rather vulgar and forward. Elinor was not particularly fond of the Steeles, but got to know them better, as Sir John often encouraged their spending time together.
The Steele sisters are obsessed with meeting and gossiping about potential husbands. Their way of talking about “beaux” irritates the Dashwoods somewhat, as Elinor gets to know Anne’s vulgar character better.
Sir John told the Steeles about Willoughby and Marianne, and the Steeles congratulated Elinor on her sister’s engagement. Sir John joked with Elinor in front of the Steeles about her man with the name beginning with F, and eventually told them that it was Edward Ferrars. Anne Steele said that they knew Edward, but Lucy corrected her and said they didn’t know him well. Elinor was curious but could find out no more about how the Steeles knew Edward.
Nearly everyone continues to act as though Willoughby and Marianne are certainly engaged. Sir John continues to enjoy gossiping and meddling in others’ affairs, telling the Steeles about Elinor’s affection for Edward.