Part 4 out of 8
Elinor had often wished for an opportunity of
attempting to weaken her mother's dependence on the
attachment of Edward and herself, that the shock might
be less when the whole truth were revealed, and now
on this attack, though almost hopeless of success,
she forced herself to begin her design by saying,
as calmly as she could, "I like Edward Ferrars very much,
and shall always be glad to see him; but as to the rest
of the family, it is a matter of perfect indifference
to me, whether I am ever known to them or not."
Mrs. Dashwood smiled, and said nothing.
Marianne lifted up her eyes in astonishment, and Elinor
conjectured that she might as well have held her tongue.
After very little farther discourse, it was finally
settled that the invitation should be fully accepted.
Mrs. Jennings received the information with a great
deal of joy, and many assurances of kindness and care;
nor was it a matter of pleasure merely to her. Sir John
was delighted; for to a man, whose prevailing anxiety
was the dread of being alone, the acquisition of two,
to the number of inhabitants in London, was something.
Even Lady Middleton took the trouble of being delighted,
which was putting herself rather out of her way;
and as for the Miss Steeles, especially Lucy, they had
never been so happy in their lives as this intelligence
Elinor submitted to the arrangement which counteracted
her wishes with less reluctance than she had expected
to feel. With regard to herself, it was now a matter
of unconcern whether she went to town or not, and when
she saw her mother so thoroughly pleased with the plan,
and her sister exhilarated by it in look, voice, and manner,
restored to all her usual animation, and elevated to more
than her usual gaiety, she could not be dissatisfied
with the cause, and would hardly allow herself to distrust
Marianne's joy was almost a degree beyond happiness,
so great was the perturbation of her spirits and her
impatience to be gone. Her unwillingness to quit her
mother was her only restorative to calmness; and at the
moment of parting her grief on that score was excessive.
Her mother's affliction was hardly less, and Elinor
was the only one of the three, who seemed to consider
the separation as any thing short of eternal.
Their departure took place in the first week in January.
The Middletons were to follow in about a week. The Miss
Steeles kept their station at the park, and were to quit
it only with the rest of the family.
Elinor could not find herself in the carriage with Mrs. Jennings,
and beginning a journey to London under her protection,
and as her guest, without wondering at her own situation,
so short had their acquaintance with that lady been,
so wholly unsuited were they in age and disposition,
and so many had been her objections against such a measure
only a few days before! But these objections had all,
with that happy ardour of youth which Marianne and her mother
equally shared, been overcome or overlooked; and Elinor,
in spite of every occasional doubt of Willoughby's constancy,
could not witness the rapture of delightful expectation
which filled the whole soul and beamed in the eyes
of Marianne, without feeling how blank was her own prospect,
how cheerless her own state of mind in the comparison,
and how gladly she would engage in the solicitude of
Marianne's situation to have the same animating object
in view, the same possibility of hope. A short, a very
short time however must now decide what Willoughby's
intentions were; in all probability he was already in town.
Marianne's eagerness to be gone declared her dependence
on finding him there; and Elinor was resolved not only upon
gaining every new light as to his character which her
own observation or the intelligence of others could give her,
but likewise upon watching his behaviour to her sister
with such zealous attention, as to ascertain what he was
and what he meant, before many meetings had taken place.
Should the result of her observations be unfavourable,
she was determined at all events to open the eyes
of her sister; should it be otherwise, her exertions
would be of a different nature--she must then learn
to avoid every selfish comparison, and banish every regret
which might lessen her satisfaction in the happiness of Marianne.
They were three days on their journey, and Marianne's
behaviour as they travelled was a happy specimen of what
future complaisance and companionableness to Mrs. Jennings
might be expected to be. She sat in silence almost all
the way, wrapt in her own meditations, and scarcely ever
voluntarily speaking, except when any object of picturesque
beauty within their view drew from her an exclamation
of delight exclusively addressed to her sister. To atone
for this conduct therefore, Elinor took immediate possession
of the post of civility which she had assigned herself,
behaved with the greatest attention to Mrs. Jennings,
talked with her, laughed with her, and listened to her
whenever she could; and Mrs. Jennings on her side
treated them both with all possible kindness, was solicitous
on every occasion for their ease and enjoyment, and only
disturbed that she could not make them choose their own
dinners at the inn, nor extort a confession of their
preferring salmon to cod, or boiled fowls to veal cutlets.
They reached town by three o'clock the third day, glad to
be released, after such a journey, from the confinement
of a carriage, and ready to enjoy all the luxury of a good fire.
The house was handsome, and handsomely fitted up,
and the young ladies were immediately put in possession
of a very comfortable apartment. It had formerly
been Charlotte's, and over the mantelpiece still hung
a landscape in coloured silks of her performance,
in proof of her having spent seven years at a great school
in town to some effect.
As dinner was not to be ready in less than two
hours from their arrival, Elinor determined to employ
the interval in writing to her mother, and sat down for
that purpose. In a few moments Marianne did the same.
"I am writing home, Marianne," said Elinor; "had not you
better defer your letter for a day or two?"
"I am NOT going to write to my mother,"
replied Marianne, hastily, and as if wishing to avoid
any farther inquiry. Elinor said no more; it immediately
struck her that she must then be writing to Willoughby;
and the conclusion which as instantly followed was,
that, however mysteriously they might wish to conduct
the affair, they must be engaged. This conviction,
though not entirely satisfactory, gave her pleasure,
and she continued her letter with greater alacrity.
Marianne's was finished in a very few minutes;
in length it could be no more than a note; it was then
folded up, sealed, and directed with eager rapidity.
Elinor thought she could distinguish a large W in
the direction; and no sooner was it complete than Marianne,
ringing the bell, requested the footman who answered it
to get that letter conveyed for her to the two-penny post.
This decided the matter at once.
Her spirits still continued very high; but there
was a flutter in them which prevented their giving much
pleasure to her sister, and this agitation increased as
the evening drew on. She could scarcely eat any dinner,
and when they afterwards returned to the drawing room,
seemed anxiously listening to the sound of every carriage.
It was a great satisfaction to Elinor that Mrs. Jennings,
by being much engaged in her own room, could see little
of what was passing. The tea things were brought in,
and already had Marianne been disappointed more than once
by a rap at a neighbouring door, when a loud one was suddenly
heard which could not be mistaken for one at any other house,
Elinor felt secure of its announcing Willoughby's approach,
and Marianne, starting up, moved towards the door.
Every thing was silent; this could not be borne many seconds;
she opened the door, advanced a few steps towards the stairs,
and after listening half a minute, returned into the room
in all the agitation which a conviction of having heard
him would naturally produce; in the ecstasy of her
feelings at that instant she could not help exclaiming,
"Oh, Elinor, it is Willoughby, indeed it is!" and seemed
almost ready to throw herself into his arms, when Colonel
It was too great a shock to be borne with calmness,
and she immediately left the room. Elinor was disappointed too;
but at the same time her regard for Colonel Brandon ensured
his welcome with her; and she felt particularly hurt that
a man so partial to her sister should perceive that she
experienced nothing but grief and disappointment in seeing him.
She instantly saw that it was not unnoticed by him,
that he even observed Marianne as she quitted the room,
with such astonishment and concern, as hardly left him
the recollection of what civility demanded towards herself.
"Is your sister ill?" said he.
Elinor answered in some distress that she was,
and then talked of head-aches, low spirits, and over fatigues;
and of every thing to which she could decently attribute
her sister's behaviour.
He heard her with the most earnest attention,
but seeming to recollect himself, said no more on the subject,
and began directly to speak of his pleasure at seeing them
in London, making the usual inquiries about their journey,
and the friends they had left behind.
In this calm kind of way, with very little interest
on either side, they continued to talk, both of them out
of spirits, and the thoughts of both engaged elsewhere.
Elinor wished very much to ask whether Willoughby were
then in town, but she was afraid of giving him pain
by any enquiry after his rival; and at length, by way
of saying something, she asked if he had been in London
ever since she had seen him last. "Yes," he replied,
with some embarrassment, "almost ever since; I have been
once or twice at Delaford for a few days, but it has never
been in my power to return to Barton."
This, and the manner in which it was said,
immediately brought back to her remembrance all the
circumstances of his quitting that place, with the
uneasiness and suspicions they had caused to Mrs. Jennings,
and she was fearful that her question had implied
much more curiosity on the subject than she had ever felt.
Mrs. Jennings soon came in. "Oh! Colonel," said she,
with her usual noisy cheerfulness, "I am monstrous glad
to see you--sorry I could not come before--beg your
pardon, but I have been forced to look about me a little,
and settle my matters; for it is a long while since I
have been at home, and you know one has always a world
of little odd things to do after one has been away for
any time; and then I have had Cartwright to settle with--
Lord, I have been as busy as a bee ever since dinner!
But pray, Colonel, how came you to conjure out that I should
be in town today?"
"I had the pleasure of hearing it at Mr. Palmer's,
where I have been dining."
"Oh, you did; well, and how do they all do at their
house? How does Charlotte do? I warrant you she is a fine
size by this time."
"Mrs. Palmer appeared quite well, and I am commissioned
to tell you, that you will certainly see her to-morrow."
"Ay, to be sure, I thought as much. Well, Colonel,
I have brought two young ladies with me, you see--that is,
you see but one of them now, but there is another somewhere.
Your friend, Miss Marianne, too--which you will not be
sorry to hear. I do not know what you and Mr. Willoughby
will do between you about her. Ay, it is a fine thing
to be young and handsome. Well! I was young once, but I
never was very handsome--worse luck for me. However, I got
a very good husband, and I don't know what the greatest
beauty can do more. Ah! poor man! he has been dead
these eight years and better. But Colonel, where have
you been to since we parted? And how does your business
go on? Come, come, let's have no secrets among friends."
He replied with his accustomary mildness to all
her inquiries, but without satisfying her in any.
Elinor now began to make the tea, and Marianne was
obliged to appear again.
After her entrance, Colonel Brandon became
more thoughtful and silent than he had been before,
and Mrs. Jennings could not prevail on him to stay long.
No other visitor appeared that evening, and the ladies
were unanimous in agreeing to go early to bed.
Marianne rose the next morning with recovered spirits
and happy looks. The disappointment of the evening before
seemed forgotten in the expectation of what was to happen
that day. They had not long finished their breakfast before
Mrs. Palmer's barouche stopped at the door, and in a few
minutes she came laughing into the room: so delighted
to see them all, that it was hard to say whether she
received most pleasure from meeting her mother or the Miss
Dashwoods again. So surprised at their coming to town,
though it was what she had rather expected all along;
so angry at their accepting her mother's invitation
after having declined her own, though at the same time
she would never have forgiven them if they had not come!
"Mr. Palmer will be so happy to see you,"
said she; "What do you think he said when he heard
of your coming with Mamma? I forget what it was now,
but it was something so droll!"
After an hour or two spent in what her mother called
comfortable chat, or in other words, in every variety of inquiry
concerning all their acquaintance on Mrs. Jennings's side,
and in laughter without cause on Mrs. Palmer's, it was
proposed by the latter that they should all accompany
her to some shops where she had business that morning,
to which Mrs. Jennings and Elinor readily consented,
as having likewise some purchases to make themselves;
and Marianne, though declining it at first was induced
to go likewise.
Wherever they went, she was evidently always on
the watch. In Bond Street especially, where much of
their business lay, her eyes were in constant inquiry;
and in whatever shop the party were engaged, her mind was
equally abstracted from every thing actually before them,
from all that interested and occupied the others.
Restless and dissatisfied every where, her sister could
never obtain her opinion of any article of purchase,
however it might equally concern them both: she received
no pleasure from anything; was only impatient to be at
home again, and could with difficulty govern her vexation
at the tediousness of Mrs. Palmer, whose eye was caught
by every thing pretty, expensive, or new; who was wild
to buy all, could determine on none, and dawdled away her
time in rapture and indecision.
It was late in the morning before they returned home;
and no sooner had they entered the house than Marianne flew
eagerly up stairs, and when Elinor followed, she found
her turning from the table with a sorrowful countenance,
which declared that no Willoughby had been there.
"Has no letter been left here for me since we went out?"
said she to the footman who then entered with the parcels.
She was answered in the negative. "Are you quite sure
of it?" she replied. "Are you certain that no servant,
no porter has left any letter or note?"
The man replied that none had.
"How very odd!" said she, in a low and disappointed
voice, as she turned away to the window.
"How odd, indeed!" repeated Elinor within herself,
regarding her sister with uneasiness. "If she had not
known him to be in town she would not have written to him,
as she did; she would have written to Combe Magna;
and if he is in town, how odd that he should neither
come nor write! Oh! my dear mother, you must be wrong
in permitting an engagement between a daughter so young,
a man so little known, to be carried on in so doubtful,
so mysterious a manner! I long to inquire; and how will MY
interference be borne."
She determined, after some consideration, that if
appearances continued many days longer as unpleasant as they
now were, she would represent in the strongest manner
to her mother the necessity of some serious enquiry into the
Mrs. Palmer and two elderly ladies of Mrs. Jennings's
intimate acquaintance, whom she had met and invited
in the morning, dined with them. The former left them
soon after tea to fulfill her evening engagements;
and Elinor was obliged to assist in making a whist table
for the others. Marianne was of no use on these occasions,
as she would never learn the game; but though her time
was therefore at her own disposal, the evening was by no
means more productive of pleasure to her than to Elinor,
for it was spent in all the anxiety of expectation and the
pain of disappointment. She sometimes endeavoured for a
few minutes to read; but the book was soon thrown aside,
and she returned to the more interesting employment
of walking backwards and forwards across the room,
pausing for a moment whenever she came to the window,
in hopes of distinguishing the long-expected rap.
"If this open weather holds much longer," said Mrs. Jennings,
when they met at breakfast the following morning,
"Sir John will not like leaving Barton next week;
'tis a sad thing for sportsmen to lose a day's pleasure.
Poor souls! I always pity them when they do; they seem
to take it so much to heart."
"That is true," cried Marianne, in a cheerful voice,
and walking to the window as she spoke, to examine the day.
"I had not thought of that. This weather will keep many
sportsmen in the country."
It was a lucky recollection, all her good spirits were
restored by it. "It is charming weather for THEM indeed,"
she continued, as she sat down to the breakfast table
with a happy countenance. "How much they must enjoy
it! But" (with a little return of anxiety) "it cannot
be expected to last long. At this time of the year,
and after such a series of rain, we shall certainly
have very little more of it. Frosts will soon set in,
and in all probability with severity. In another day
or two perhaps; this extreme mildness can hardly last
longer--nay, perhaps it may freeze tonight!"
"At any rate," said Elinor, wishing to prevent
Mrs. Jennings from seeing her sister's thoughts as clearly
as she did, "I dare say we shall have Sir John and Lady
Middleton in town by the end of next week."
"Ay, my dear, I'll warrant you we do. Mary always
has her own way."
"And now," silently conjectured Elinor, "she will
write to Combe by this day's post."
But if she DID, the letter was written and sent away
with a privacy which eluded all her watchfulness to ascertain
the fact. Whatever the truth of it might be, and far
as Elinor was from feeling thorough contentment about it,
yet while she saw Marianne in spirits, she could not be
very uncomfortable herself. And Marianne was in spirits;
happy in the mildness of the weather, and still happier
in her expectation of a frost.
The morning was chiefly spent in leaving cards at
the houses of Mrs. Jennings's acquaintance to inform
them of her being in town; and Marianne was all the time
busy in observing the direction of the wind, watching the
variations of the sky and imagining an alteration in the air.
"Don't you find it colder than it was in the morning,
Elinor? There seems to me a very decided difference.
I can hardly keep my hands warm even in my muff. It was
not so yesterday, I think. The clouds seem parting too,
the sun will be out in a moment, and we shall have a
Elinor was alternately diverted and pained;
but Marianne persevered, and saw every night in the
brightness of the fire, and every morning in the appearance
of the atmosphere, the certain symptoms of approaching frost.
The Miss Dashwoods had no greater reason to be
dissatisfied with Mrs. Jennings's style of living, and set
of acquaintance, than with her behaviour to themselves,
which was invariably kind. Every thing in her household
arrangements was conducted on the most liberal plan,
and excepting a few old city friends, whom, to Lady
Middleton's regret, she had never dropped, she visited
no one to whom an introduction could at all discompose
the feelings of her young companions. Pleased to find
herself more comfortably situated in that particular than
she had expected, Elinor was very willing to compound
for the want of much real enjoyment from any of their
evening parties, which, whether at home or abroad,
formed only for cards, could have little to amuse her.
Colonel Brandon, who had a general invitation
to the house, was with them almost every day; he came
to look at Marianne and talk to Elinor, who often derived
more satisfaction from conversing with him than from any
other daily occurrence, but who saw at the same time
with much concern his continued regard for her sister.
She feared it was a strengthening regard. It grieved her
to see the earnestness with which he often watched Marianne,
and his spirits were certainly worse than when at Barton.
About a week after their arrival, it became
certain that Willoughby was also arrived. His card
was on the table when they came in from the morning's drive.
"Good God!" cried Marianne, "he has been here while
we were out." Elinor, rejoiced to be assured of his
being in London, now ventured to say, "Depend upon it,
he will call again tomorrow." But Marianne seemed
hardly to hear her, and on Mrs. Jenning's entrance,
escaped with the precious card.
This event, while it raised the spirits of Elinor,
restored to those of her sister all, and more than all,
their former agitation. From this moment her mind was
never quiet; the expectation of seeing him every hour
of the day, made her unfit for any thing. She insisted
on being left behind, the next morning, when the others
Elinor's thoughts were full of what might be passing
in Berkeley Street during their absence; but a moment's
glance at her sister when they returned was enough to
inform her, that Willoughby had paid no second visit there.
A note was just then brought in, and laid on the table,
"For me!" cried Marianne, stepping hastily forward.
"No, ma'am, for my mistress."
But Marianne, not convinced, took it instantly up.
"It is indeed for Mrs. Jennings; how provoking!"
"You are expecting a letter, then?" said Elinor,
unable to be longer silent.
"Yes, a little--not much."
After a short pause. "You have no confidence
in me, Marianne."
"Nay, Elinor, this reproach from YOU--you who have
confidence in no one!"
"Me!" returned Elinor in some confusion; "indeed,
Marianne, I have nothing to tell."
"Nor I," answered Marianne with energy, "our situations
then are alike. We have neither of us any thing to tell;
you, because you do not communicate, and I, because
I conceal nothing."
Elinor, distressed by this charge of reserve in herself,
which she was not at liberty to do away, knew not how,
under such circumstances, to press for greater openness
Mrs. Jennings soon appeared, and the note being
given her, she read it aloud. It was from Lady Middleton,
announcing their arrival in Conduit Street the night before,
and requesting the company of her mother and cousins
the following evening. Business on Sir John's part,
and a violent cold on her own, prevented their calling
in Berkeley Street. The invitation was accepted;
but when the hour of appointment drew near, necessary as
it was in common civility to Mrs. Jennings, that they
should both attend her on such a visit, Elinor had some
difficulty in persuading her sister to go, for still
she had seen nothing of Willoughby; and therefore was
not more indisposed for amusement abroad, than unwilling
to run the risk of his calling again in her absence.
Elinor found, when the evening was over,
that disposition is not materially altered by a change
of abode, for although scarcely settled in town,
Sir John had contrived to collect around him, nearly twenty
young people, and to amuse them with a ball. This was
an affair, however, of which Lady Middleton did not approve.
In the country, an unpremeditated dance was very allowable;
but in London, where the reputation of elegance was more
important and less easily attained, it was risking too much
for the gratification of a few girls, to have it known that
Lady Middleton had given a small dance of eight or nine couple,
with two violins, and a mere side-board collation.
Mr. and Mrs. Palmer were of the party; from the former,
whom they had not seen before since their arrival in town,
as he was careful to avoid the appearance of any attention
to his mother-in-law, and therefore never came near her,
they received no mark of recognition on their entrance.
He looked at them slightly, without seeming to know
who they were, and merely nodded to Mrs. Jennings from
the other side of the room. Marianne gave one glance
round the apartment as she entered: it was enough--HE
was not there--and she sat down, equally ill-disposed
to receive or communicate pleasure. After they had been
assembled about an hour, Mr. Palmer sauntered towards
the Miss Dashwoods to express his surprise on seeing them
in town, though Colonel Brandon had been first informed
of their arrival at his house, and he had himself said
something very droll on hearing that they were to come.
"I thought you were both in Devonshire," said he.
"Did you?" replied Elinor.
"When do you go back again?"
"I do not know." And thus ended their discourse.
Never had Marianne been so unwilling to dance
in her life, as she was that evening, and never so much
fatigued by the exercise. She complained of it
as they returned to Berkeley Street.
"Aye, aye," said Mrs. Jennings, "we know the reason
of all that very well; if a certain person who shall
be nameless, had been there, you would not have been a
bit tired: and to say the truth it was not very pretty
of him not to give you the meeting when he was invited."
"Invited!" cried Marianne.
"So my daughter Middleton told me, for it seems Sir
John met him somewhere in the street this morning."
Marianne said no more, but looked exceedingly hurt.
Impatient in this situation to be doing something
that might lead to her sister's relief, Elinor resolved
to write the next morning to her mother, and hoped
by awakening her fears for the health of Marianne,
to procure those inquiries which had been so long delayed;
and she was still more eagerly bent on this measure
by perceiving after breakfast on the morrow, that Marianne
was again writing to Willoughby, for she could not suppose
it to be to any other person.
About the middle of the day, Mrs. Jennings went out by
herself on business, and Elinor began her letter directly,
while Marianne, too restless for employment, too anxious
for conversation, walked from one window to the other,
or sat down by the fire in melancholy meditation.
Elinor was very earnest in her application to her mother,
relating all that had passed, her suspicions of
Willoughby's inconstancy, urging her by every plea
of duty and affection to demand from Marianne an account
of her real situation with respect to him.
Her letter was scarcely finished, when a rap
foretold a visitor, and Colonel Brandon was announced.
Marianne, who had seen him from the window, and who hated
company of any kind, left the room before he entered it.
He looked more than usually grave, and though expressing
satisfaction at finding Miss Dashwood alone, as if he
had somewhat in particular to tell her, sat for some
time without saying a word. Elinor, persuaded that he
had some communication to make in which her sister
was concerned, impatiently expected its opening.
It was not the first time of her feeling the same kind
of conviction; for, more than once before, beginning with
the observation of "your sister looks unwell to-day,"
or "your sister seems out of spirits," he had appeared
on the point, either of disclosing, or of inquiring,
something particular about her. After a pause of several
minutes, their silence was broken, by his asking her
in a voice of some agitation, when he was to congratulate
her on the acquisition of a brother? Elinor was not
prepared for such a question, and having no answer ready,
was obliged to adopt the simple and common expedient,
of asking what he meant? He tried to smile as he replied,
"your sister's engagement to Mr. Willoughby is very generally
"It cannot be generally known," returned Elinor,
"for her own family do not know it."
He looked surprised and said, "I beg your pardon,
I am afraid my inquiry has been impertinent; but I had not
supposed any secrecy intended, as they openly correspond,
and their marriage is universally talked of."
"How can that be? By whom can you have heard
"By many--by some of whom you know nothing, by others
with whom you are most intimate, Mrs. Jennings, Mrs. Palmer,
and the Middletons. But still I might not have believed it,
for where the mind is perhaps rather unwilling to
be convinced, it will always find something to support
its doubts, if I had not, when the servant let me in today,
accidentally seen a letter in his hand, directed to
Mr. Willoughby in your sister's writing. I came to inquire,
but I was convinced before I could ask the question.
Is every thing finally settled? Is it impossible to-?
But I have no right, and I could have no chance of succeeding.
Excuse me, Miss Dashwood. I believe I have been wrong
in saying so much, but I hardly know what to do, and on
your prudence I have the strongest dependence. Tell me
that it is all absolutely resolved on, that any attempt,
that in short concealment, if concealment be possible,
is all that remains."
These words, which conveyed to Elinor a direct avowal
of his love for her sister, affected her very much.
She was not immediately able to say anything, and even
when her spirits were recovered, she debated for a short
time, on the answer it would be most proper to give.
The real state of things between Willoughby and her sister
was so little known to herself, that in endeavouring
to explain it, she might be as liable to say too much
as too little. Yet as she was convinced that Marianne's
affection for Willoughby, could leave no hope of Colonel
Brandon's success, whatever the event of that affection
might be, and at the same time wished to shield her conduct
from censure, she thought it most prudent and kind,
after some consideration, to say more than she really knew
or believed. She acknowledged, therefore, that though
she had never been informed by themselves of the terms
on which they stood with each other, of their mutual
affection she had no doubt, and of their correspondence
she was not astonished to hear.
He listened to her with silent attention, and on
her ceasing to speak, rose directly from his seat,
and after saying in a voice of emotion, "to your sister
I wish all imaginable happiness; to Willoughby that he
may endeavour to deserve her,"--took leave, and went away.
Elinor derived no comfortable feelings from this
conversation, to lessen the uneasiness of her mind on
other points; she was left, on the contrary, with a
melancholy impression of Colonel Brandon's unhappiness,
and was prevented even from wishing it removed,
by her anxiety for the very event that must confirm it.
Nothing occurred during the next three or four days,
to make Elinor regret what she had done, in applying
to her mother; for Willoughby neither came nor wrote.
They were engaged about the end of that time to attend
Lady Middleton to a party, from which Mrs. Jennings was
kept away by the indisposition of her youngest daughter;
and for this party, Marianne, wholly dispirited,
careless of her appearance, and seeming equally indifferent
whether she went or staid, prepared, without one look
of hope or one expression of pleasure. She sat by the
drawing-room fire after tea, till the moment of Lady
Middleton's arrival, without once stirring from her seat,
or altering her attitude, lost in her own thoughts,
and insensible of her sister's presence; and when at
last they were told that Lady Middleton waited for them
at the door, she started as if she had forgotten that
any one was expected.
They arrived in due time at the place of destination,
and as soon as the string of carriages before them
would allow, alighted, ascended the stairs, heard their
names announced from one landing-place to another in an
audible voice, and entered a room splendidly lit up,
quite full of company, and insufferably hot. When they had
paid their tribute of politeness by curtsying to the lady
of the house, they were permitted to mingle in the crowd,
and take their share of the heat and inconvenience, to
which their arrival must necessarily add. After some time
spent in saying little or doing less, Lady Middleton sat
down to Cassino, and as Marianne was not in spirits for
moving about, she and Elinor luckily succeeding to chairs,
placed themselves at no great distance from the table.
They had not remained in this manner long, before Elinor
perceived Willoughby, standing within a few yards
of them, in earnest conversation with a very fashionable
looking young woman. She soon caught his eye, and he
immediately bowed, but without attempting to speak to her,
or to approach Marianne, though he could not but see her;
and then continued his discourse with the same lady.
Elinor turned involuntarily to Marianne, to see whether
it could be unobserved by her. At that moment she first
perceived him, and her whole countenance glowing with
sudden delight, she would have moved towards him instantly,
had not her sister caught hold of her.
"Good heavens!" she exclaimed, "he is there--he
is there--Oh! why does he not look at me? why cannot
I speak to him?"
"Pray, pray be composed," cried Elinor, "and do
not betray what you feel to every body present.
Perhaps he has not observed you yet."
This however was more than she could believe herself;
and to be composed at such a moment was not only beyond
the reach of Marianne, it was beyond her wish. She sat
in an agony of impatience which affected every feature.
At last he turned round again, and regarded them both;
she started up, and pronouncing his name in a tone
of affection, held out her hand to him. He approached,
and addressing himself rather to Elinor than Marianne,
as if wishing to avoid her eye, and determined not to
observe her attitude, inquired in a hurried manner after
Mrs. Dashwood, and asked how long they had been in town.
Elinor was robbed of all presence of mind by such an address,
and was unable to say a word. But the feelings of her sister
were instantly expressed. Her face was crimsoned over,
and she exclaimed, in a voice of the greatest emotion,
"Good God! Willoughby, what is the meaning of this?
Have you not received my letters? Will you not shake
hands with me?"
He could not then avoid it, but her touch seemed
painful to him, and he held her hand only for a moment.
During all this time he was evidently struggling for composure.
Elinor watched his countenance and saw its expression
becoming more tranquil. After a moment's pause, he spoke
"I did myself the honour of calling in Berkeley
Street last Tuesday, and very much regretted that I was
not fortunate enough to find yourselves and Mrs. Jennings
at home. My card was not lost, I hope."
"But have you not received my notes?" cried Marianne
in the wildest anxiety. "Here is some mistake I am
sure--some dreadful mistake. What can be the meaning
of it? Tell me, Willoughby; for heaven's sake tell me,
what is the matter?"
He made no reply; his complexion changed and all his
embarrassment returned; but as if, on catching the eye
of the young lady with whom he had been previously talking,
he felt the necessity of instant exertion, he recovered
himself again, and after saying, "Yes, I had the pleasure
of receiving the information of your arrival in town,
which you were so good as to send me," turned hastily away
with a slight bow and joined his friend.
Marianne, now looking dreadfully white, and unable
to stand, sunk into her chair, and Elinor, expecting every
moment to see her faint, tried to screen her from the
observation of others, while reviving her with lavender water.
"Go to him, Elinor," she cried, as soon as she
could speak, "and force him to come to me. Tell him
I must see him again--must speak to him instantly.--
I cannot rest--I shall not have a moment's peace till this
is explained--some dreadful misapprehension or other.--
Oh go to him this moment."
"How can that be done? No, my dearest Marianne,
you must wait. This is not the place for explanations.
Wait only till tomorrow."
With difficulty however could she prevent her
from following him herself; and to persuade her to check
her agitation, to wait, at least, with the appearance
of composure, till she might speak to him with more privacy
and more effect, was impossible; for Marianne continued
incessantly to give way in a low voice to the misery
of her feelings, by exclamations of wretchedness.
In a short time Elinor saw Willoughby quit the room by the
door towards the staircase, and telling Marianne that he
was gone, urged the impossibility of speaking to him again
that evening, as a fresh argument for her to be calm.
She instantly begged her sister would entreat Lady
Middleton to take them home, as she was too miserable
to stay a minute longer.
Lady Middleton, though in the middle of a rubber,
on being informed that Marianne was unwell, was too
polite to object for a moment to her wish of going away,
and making over her cards to a friend, they departed
as soon the carriage could be found. Scarcely a word
was spoken during their return to Berkeley Street.
Marianne was in a silent agony, too much oppressed even
for tears; but as Mrs. Jennings was luckily not come home,
they could go directly to their own room, where hartshorn
restored her a little to herself. She was soon undressed
and in bed, and as she seemed desirous of being alone,
her sister then left her, and while she waited the return
of Mrs. Jennings, had leisure enough for thinking over
That some kind of engagement had subsisted
between Willoughby and Marianne she could not doubt,
and that Willoughby was weary of it, seemed equally clear;
for however Marianne might still feed her own wishes,
SHE could not attribute such behaviour to mistake
or misapprehension of any kind. Nothing but a thorough
change of sentiment could account for it. Her indignation
would have been still stronger than it was, had she
not witnessed that embarrassment which seemed to speak
a consciousness of his own misconduct, and prevented
her from believing him so unprincipled as to have been
sporting with the affections of her sister from the first,
without any design that would bear investigation.
Absence might have weakened his regard, and convenience
might have determined him to overcome it, but that such
a regard had formerly existed she could not bring herself
As for Marianne, on the pangs which so unhappy a meeting
must already have given her, and on those still more
severe which might await her in its probable consequence,
she could not reflect without the deepest concern.
Her own situation gained in the comparison; for while she
could ESTEEM Edward as much as ever, however they might be
divided in future, her mind might be always supported.
But every circumstance that could embitter such an evil
seemed uniting to heighten the misery of Marianne
in a final separation from Willoughby--in an immediate
and irreconcilable rupture with him.
Before the house-maid had lit their fire the next day,
or the sun gained any power over a cold, gloomy morning
in January, Marianne, only half dressed, was kneeling
against one of the window-seats for the sake of all
the little light she could command from it, and writing
as fast as a continual flow of tears would permit her.
In this situation, Elinor, roused from sleep by her agitation
and sobs, first perceived her; and after observing her
for a few moments with silent anxiety, said, in a tone
of the most considerate gentleness,
"Marianne, may I ask-?"
"No, Elinor," she replied, "ask nothing; you will
soon know all."
The sort of desperate calmness with which this was said,
lasted no longer than while she spoke, and was immediately
followed by a return of the same excessive affliction.
It was some minutes before she could go on with her letter,
and the frequent bursts of grief which still obliged her,
at intervals, to withhold her pen, were proofs enough of her
feeling how more than probable it was that she was writing
for the last time to Willoughby.
Elinor paid her every quiet and unobtrusive attention
in her power; and she would have tried to sooth and
tranquilize her still more, had not Marianne entreated her,
with all the eagerness of the most nervous irritability,
not to speak to her for the world. In such circumstances,
it was better for both that they should not be long together;
and the restless state of Marianne's mind not only prevented
her from remaining in the room a moment after she was dressed,
but requiring at once solitude and continual change of place,
made her wander about the house till breakfast time, avoiding
the sight of every body.
At breakfast she neither ate, nor attempted to eat
any thing; and Elinor's attention was then all employed,
not in urging her, not in pitying her, nor in appearing
to regard her, but in endeavouring to engage Mrs. Jenning's
notice entirely to herself.
As this was a favourite meal with Mrs. Jennings,
it lasted a considerable time, and they were just setting
themselves, after it, round the common working table, when a
letter was delivered to Marianne, which she eagerly caught
from the servant, and, turning of a death-like paleness,
instantly ran out of the room. Elinor, who saw as plainly
by this, as if she had seen the direction, that it must
come from Willoughby, felt immediately such a sickness
at heart as made her hardly able to hold up her head,
and sat in such a general tremour as made her fear it
impossible to escape Mrs. Jenning's notice. That good lady,
however, saw only that Marianne had received a letter
from Willoughby, which appeared to her a very good joke,
and which she treated accordingly, by hoping, with a laugh,
that she would find it to her liking. Of Elinor's distress,
she was too busily employed in measuring lengths of worsted
for her rug, to see any thing at all; and calmly continuing
her talk, as soon as Marianne disappeared, she said,
"Upon my word, I never saw a young woman so
desperately in love in my life! MY girls were nothing
to her, and yet they used to be foolish enough; but as
for Miss Marianne, she is quite an altered creature.
I hope, from the bottom of my heart, he won't keep her
waiting much longer, for it is quite grievous to see her
look so ill and forlorn. Pray, when are they to be married?"
Elinor, though never less disposed to speak than at
that moment, obliged herself to answer such an attack
as this, and, therefore, trying to smile, replied, "And have
you really, Ma'am, talked yourself into a persuasion
of my sister's being engaged to Mr. Willoughby? I thought
it had been only a joke, but so serious a question seems
to imply more; and I must beg, therefore, that you will not
deceive yourself any longer. I do assure you that nothing
would surprise me more than to hear of their being going
to be married."
"For shame, for shame, Miss Dashwood! how can you
talk so? Don't we all know that it must be a match, that
they were over head and ears in love with each other from
the first moment they met? Did not I see them together
in Devonshire every day, and all day long; and did not I
know that your sister came to town with me on purpose
to buy wedding clothes? Come, come, this won't do.
Because you are so sly about it yourself, you think nobody
else has any senses; but it is no such thing, I can tell you,
for it has been known all over town this ever so long.
I tell every body of it and so does Charlotte."
"Indeed, Ma'am," said Elinor, very seriously,
"you are mistaken. Indeed, you are doing a very unkind thing
in spreading the report, and you will find that you have
though you will not believe me now."
Mrs. Jennings laughed again, but Elinor had not
spirits to say more, and eager at all events to know
what Willoughby had written, hurried away to their room,
where, on opening the door, she saw Marianne stretched on
the bed, almost choked by grief, one letter in her hand,
and two or three others laying by her. Elinor drew near,
but without saying a word; and seating herself on the bed,
took her hand, kissed her affectionately several times,
and then gave way to a burst of tears, which at first
was scarcely less violent than Marianne's. The latter,
though unable to speak, seemed to feel all the tenderness
of this behaviour, and after some time thus spent in
joint affliction, she put all the letters into Elinor's hands;
and then covering her face with her handkerchief,
almost screamed with agony. Elinor, who knew that such grief,
shocking as it was to witness it, must have its course,
watched by her till this excess of suffering had somewhat
spent itself, and then turning eagerly to Willoughby's letter,
read as follows:
"Bond Street, January.
"MY DEAR MADAM,
"I have just had the honour of receiving your
letter, for which I beg to return my sincere
acknowledgments. I am much concerned to find there
was anything in my behaviour last night that did
not meet your approbation; and though I am quite at
a loss to discover in what point I could be so
unfortunate as to offend you, I entreat your
forgiveness of what I can assure you to have been
perfectly unintentional. I shall never reflect on
my former acquaintance with your family in Devonshire
without the most grateful pleasure, and flatter
myself it will not be broken by any mistake or
misapprehension of my actions. My esteem for your
whole family is very sincere; but if I have been so
unfortunate as to give rise to a belief of more than
I felt, or meant to express, I shall reproach myself
for not having been more guarded in my professions
of that esteem. That I should ever have meant more
you will allow to be impossible, when you understand
that my affections have been long engaged elsewhere,
and it will not be many weeks, I believe, before
this engagement is fulfilled. It is with great
regret that I obey your commands in returning the
letters with which I have been honoured from you,
and the lock of hair, which you so obligingly bestowed
"I am, dear Madam,
"Your most obedient
With what indignation such a letter as this must
be read by Miss Dashwood, may be imagined. Though aware,
before she began it, that it must bring a confession
of his inconstancy, and confirm their separation for ever,
she was not aware that such language could be suffered
to announce it; nor could she have supposed Willoughby
capable of departing so far from the appearance of every
honourable and delicate feeling--so far from the common
decorum of a gentleman, as to send a letter so impudently
cruel: a letter which, instead of bringing with his desire
of a release any professions of regret, acknowledged no
breach of faith, denied all peculiar affection whatever--
a letter of which every line was an insult, and which
proclaimed its writer to be deep in hardened villainy.
She paused over it for some time with indignant
astonishment; then read it again and again; but every
perusal only served to increase her abhorrence of the man,
and so bitter were her feelings against him, that she
dared not trust herself to speak, lest she might wound
Marianne still deeper by treating their disengagement,
not as a loss to her of any possible good but as an
escape from the worst and most irremediable of all
evils, a connection, for life, with an unprincipled man,
as a deliverance the most real, a blessing the most important.
In her earnest meditations on the contents of the letter,
on the depravity of that mind which could dictate it,
and probably, on the very different mind of a very different
person, who had no other connection whatever with the affair
than what her heart gave him with every thing that passed,
Elinor forgot the immediate distress of her sister,
forgot that she had three letters on her lap yet unread,
and so entirely forgot how long she had been in the room,
that when on hearing a carriage drive up to the door,
she went to the window to see who could be coming so
unreasonably early, she was all astonishment to perceive
Mrs. Jennings's chariot, which she knew had not been
ordered till one. Determined not to quit Marianne,
though hopeless of contributing, at present, to her ease,
she hurried away to excuse herself from attending
Mrs. Jennings, on account of her sister being indisposed.
Mrs. Jennings, with a thoroughly good-humoured concern
for its cause, admitted the excuse most readily, and Elinor,
after seeing her safe off, returned to Marianne, whom she
found attempting to rise from the bed, and whom she reached
just in time to prevent her from falling on the floor,
faint and giddy from a long want of proper rest and food;
for it was many days since she had any appetite, and many
nights since she had really slept; and now, when her
mind was no longer supported by the fever of suspense,
the consequence of all this was felt in an aching head,
a weakened stomach, and a general nervous faintness.
A glass of wine, which Elinor procured for her directly,
made her more comfortable, and she was at last able to express
some sense of her kindness, by saying,
"Poor Elinor! how unhappy I make you!"
"I only wish," replied her sister, "there were
any thing I COULD do, which might be of comfort to you."
This, as every thing else would have been,
was too much for Marianne, who could only exclaim,
in the anguish of her heart, "Oh! Elinor, I am miserable,
indeed," before her voice was entirely lost in sobs.
Elinor could no longer witness this torrent
of unresisted grief in silence.
"Exert yourself, dear Marianne," she cried,
"if you would not kill yourself and all who love you.
Think of your mother; think of her misery while YOU suffer:
for her sake you must exert yourself."
"I cannot, I cannot," cried Marianne; "leave me,
leave me, if I distress you; leave me, hate me, forget me!
but do not torture me so. Oh! how easy for those,
who have no sorrow of their own to talk of exertion! Happy,
happy Elinor, YOU cannot have an idea of what I suffer."
"Do you call ME happy, Marianne? Ah! if you knew!--And
can you believe me to be so, while I see you so wretched!"
"Forgive me, forgive me," throwing her arms round
her sister's neck; "I know you feel for me; I know what
a heart you have; but yet you are--you must be happy;
Edward loves you--what, oh what, can do away such happiness
"Many, many circumstances," said Elinor, solemnly.
"No, no, no," cried Marianne wildly, "he loves you,
and only you. You CAN have no grief."
"I can have no pleasure while I see you in this state."
"And you will never see me otherwise. Mine is
a misery which nothing can do away."
"You must not talk so, Marianne. Have you no
comforts? no friends? Is your loss such as leaves
no opening for consolation? Much as you suffer now,
think of what you would have suffered if the discovery
of his character had been delayed to a later period--
if your engagement had been carried on for months and months,
as it might have been, before he chose to put an end to it.
Every additional day of unhappy confidence, on your side,
would have made the blow more dreadful."
"Engagement!" cried Marianne, "there has been
"No, he is not so unworthy as you believe him.
He has broken no faith with me."
"But he told you that he loved you."
"Yes--no--never absolutely. It was every day implied,
but never professedly declared. Sometimes I thought it
had been--but it never was."
"Yet you wrote to him?"--
"Yes--could that be wrong after all that had passed?--
But I cannot talk."
Elinor said no more, and turning again to the three
letters which now raised a much stronger curiosity
than before, directly ran over the contents of all.
The first, which was what her sister had sent him
on their arrival in town, was to this effect.
Berkeley Street, January.
"How surprised you will be, Willoughby, on
receiving this; and I think you will feel something
more than surprise, when you know that I am in town.
An opportunity of coming hither, though with Mrs.
Jennings, was a temptation we could not resist.
I wish you may receive this in time to come here
to-night, but I will not depend on it. At any rate
I shall expect you to-morrow. For the present, adieu.
Her second note, which had been written on the morning
after the dance at the Middletons', was in these words:--
"I cannot express my disappointment in having
missed you the day before yesterday, nor my astonishment
at not having received any answer to a note which
I sent you above a week ago. I have been expecting
to hear from you, and still more to see you, every
hour of the day. Pray call again as soon as possible,
and explain the reason of my having expected this
in vain. You had better come earlier another time,
because we are generally out by one. We were last
night at Lady Middleton's, where there was a dance.
I have been told that you were asked to be of the
party. But could it be so? You must be very much
altered indeed since we parted, if that could be
the case, and you not there. But I will not suppose
this possible, and I hope very soon to receive your
personal assurance of its being otherwise.
The contents of her last note to him were these:--
"What am I to imagine, Willoughby, by your
behaviour last night? Again I demand an explanation
of it. I was prepared to meet you with the pleasure
which our separation naturally produced, with the
familiarity which our intimacy at Barton appeared
to me to justify. I was repulsed indeed! I have
passed a wretched night in endeavouring to excuse
a conduct which can scarcely be called less than
insulting; but though I have not yet been able to
form any reasonable apology for your behaviour,
I am perfectly ready to hear your justification of
it. You have perhaps been misinformed, or purposely
deceived, in something concerning me, which may have
lowered me in your opinion. Tell me what it is,
explain the grounds on which you acted, and I shall
be satisfied, in being able to satisfy you. It
would grieve me indeed to be obliged to think ill
of you; but if I am to do it, if I am to learn that
you are not what we have hitherto believed you, that
your regard for us all was insincere, that your
behaviour to me was intended only to deceive, let
it be told as soon as possible. My feelings are at
present in a state of dreadful indecision; I wish
to acquit you, but certainty on either side will be
ease to what I now suffer. If your sentiments are
no longer what they were, you will return my notes,
and the lock of my hair which is in your possession.
That such letters, so full of affection and confidence,
could have been so answered, Elinor, for Willoughby's sake,
would have been unwilling to believe. But her condemnation
of him did not blind her to the impropriety of their
having been written at all; and she was silently grieving
over the imprudence which had hazarded such unsolicited
proofs of tenderness, not warranted by anything preceding,
and most severely condemned by the event, when Marianne,
perceiving that she had finished the letters, observed to
her that they contained nothing but what any one would
have written in the same situation.
"I felt myself," she added, "to be as solemnly
engaged to him, as if the strictest legal covenant
had bound us to each other."
"I can believe it," said Elinor; "but unfortunately
he did not feel the same."
"He DID feel the same, Elinor--for weeks and weeks he
felt it. I know he did. Whatever may have changed him now, (and
nothing but the blackest art employed against me can have done
it), I was once as dear to him as my own soul could wish.
This lock of hair, which now he can so readily give up,
was begged of me with the most earnest supplication.
Had you seen his look, his manner, had you heard his voice
at that moment! Have you forgot the last evening of our
being together at Barton? The morning that we parted
too! When he told me that it might be many weeks before
we met again--his distress--can I ever forget his distress?"
For a moment or two she could say no more;
but when this emotion had passed away, she added,
in a firmer tone,
"Elinor, I have been cruelly used; but not by Willoughby."
"Dearest Marianne, who but himself? By whom can he
have been instigated?"
"By all the world, rather than by his own heart.
I could rather believe every creature of my acquaintance
leagued together to ruin me in his opinion, than believe
his nature capable of such cruelty. This woman of whom he
writes--whoever she be--or any one, in short, but your own
dear self, mama, and Edward, may have been so barbarous
to bely me. Beyond you three, is there a creature
in the world whom I would not rather suspect of evil
than Willoughby, whose heart I know so well?"
Elinor would not contend, and only replied,
"Whoever may have been so detestably your enemy, let them
be cheated of their malignant triumph, my dear sister,
by seeing how nobly the consciousness of your own
innocence and good intentions supports your spirits.
It is a reasonable and laudable pride which resists
"No, no," cried Marianne, "misery such as mine has
no pride. I care not who knows that I am wretched.
The triumph of seeing me so may be open to all the world.
Elinor, Elinor, they who suffer little may be proud and
independent as they like--may resist insult, or return
mortification--but I cannot. I must feel--I must be
wretched--and they are welcome to enjoy the consciousness
of it that can."
"But for my mother's sake and mine--"
"I would do more than for my own. But to appear
happy when I am so miserable--Oh! who can require it?"
Again they were both silent. Elinor was employed
in walking thoughtfully from the fire to the window,
from the window to the fire, without knowing that she
received warmth from one, or discerning objects through
the other; and Marianne, seated at the foot of the bed,
with her head leaning against one of its posts,
again took up Willoughby's letter, and, after shuddering
over every sentence, exclaimed--
"It is too much! Oh, Willoughby, Willoughby, could this
be yours! Cruel, cruel--nothing can acquit you. Elinor,
nothing can. Whatever he might have heard against me--
ought he not to have suspended his belief? ought he not to
have told me of it, to have given me the power of clearing
myself? 'The lock of hair, (repeating it from the letter,)
which you so obligingly bestowed on me'--That is unpardonable.
Willoughby, where was your heart when you wrote those words?
Oh, barbarously insolent!--Elinor, can he be justified?"
"No, Marianne, in no possible way."
"And yet this woman--who knows what her art may
have been?--how long it may have been premeditated,
and how deeply contrived by her!--Who is she?--Who can
she be?--Whom did I ever hear him talk of as young and
attractive among his female acquaintance?--Oh! no one,
no one--he talked to me only of myself."
Another pause ensued; Marianne was greatly agitated,
and it ended thus.
"Elinor, I must go home. I must go and comfort mama.
Can not we be gone to-morrow?"
"Yes, why should I stay here? I came only for
Willoughby's sake--and now who cares for me? Who regards me?"
"It would be impossible to go to-morrow. We owe
Mrs. Jennings much more than civility; and civility of
the commonest kind must prevent such a hasty removal as that."
"Well then, another day or two, perhaps; but I cannot
stay here long, I cannot stay to endure the questions
and remarks of all these people. The Middletons and
Palmers--how am I to bear their pity? The pity of such
a woman as Lady Middleton! Oh, what would HE say to that!"
Elinor advised her to lie down again, and for a
moment she did so; but no attitude could give her ease;
and in restless pain of mind and body she moved from one
posture to another, till growing more and more hysterical,
her sister could with difficulty keep her on the bed at all,
and for some time was fearful of being constrained to call
for assistance. Some lavender drops, however, which she
was at length persuaded to take, were of use; and from
that time till Mrs. Jennings returned, she continued
on the bed quiet and motionless.
Mrs. Jennings came immediately to their room on her return,
and without waiting to have her request of admittance answered,
opened the door and walked in with a look of real concern.
"How do you do my dear?"--said she in a voice of great
compassion to Marianne, who turned away her face without
attempting to answer.
"How is she, Miss Dashwood?--Poor thing! she looks very bad.--
No wonder. Ay, it is but too true. He is to be married
very soon--a good-for-nothing fellow! I have no patience
with him. Mrs. Taylor told me of it half an hour ago,
and she was told it by a particular friend of Miss
Grey herself, else I am sure I should not have believed it;
and I was almost ready to sink as it was. Well, said I,
all I can say is, that if this be true, he has used
a young lady of my acquaintance abominably ill, and I
wish with all my soul his wife may plague his heart out.
And so I shall always say, my dear, you may depend on it.
I have no notion of men's going on in this way; and if ever
I meet him again, I will give him such a dressing as he
has not had this many a day. But there is one comfort,
my dear Miss Marianne; he is not the only young man
in the world worth having; and with your pretty face
you will never want admirers. Well, poor thing! I won't
disturb her any longer, for she had better have her cry
out at once and have done with. The Parrys and Sandersons
luckily are coming tonight you know, and that will amuse her."
She then went away, walking on tiptoe out of the room,
as if she supposed her young friend's affliction could
be increased by noise.
Marianne, to the surprise of her sister,
determined on dining with them. Elinor even advised
her against it. But "no, she would go down; she could
bear it very well, and the bustle about her would
be less." Elinor, pleased to have her governed for a
moment by such a motive, though believing it hardly
possible that she could sit out the dinner, said no more;
and adjusting her dress for her as well as she could,
while Marianne still remained on the bed, was ready
to assist her into the dining room as soon as they were
summoned to it.
When there, though looking most wretchedly,
she ate more and was calmer than her sister had expected.
Had she tried to speak, or had she been conscious of half
Mrs. Jennings's well-meant but ill-judged attentions
to her, this calmness could not have been maintained;
but not a syllable escaped her lips; and the abstraction
of her thoughts preserved her in ignorance of every thing
that was passing before her.
Elinor, who did justice to Mrs. Jennings's kindness,
though its effusions were often distressing, and sometimes
almost ridiculous, made her those acknowledgments,
and returned her those civilities, which her sister could
not make or return for herself. Their good friend saw
that Marianne was unhappy, and felt that every thing
was due to her which might make her at all less so.
She treated her therefore, with all the indulgent fondness
of a parent towards a favourite child on the last day of
its holidays. Marianne was to have the best place by the fire,
was to be tempted to eat by every delicacy in the house,
and to be amused by the relation of all the news of the day.
Had not Elinor, in the sad countenance of her sister,
seen a check to all mirth, she could have been entertained
by Mrs. Jennings's endeavours to cure a disappointment in love,
by a variety of sweetmeats and olives, and a good fire.
As soon, however, as the consciousness of all this was
forced by continual repetition on Marianne, she could
stay no longer. With a hasty exclamation of Misery,
and a sign to her sister not to follow her, she directly got
up and hurried out of the room.
"Poor soul!" cried Mrs. Jennings, as soon as she was gone,
"how it grieves me to see her! And I declare if she is
not gone away without finishing her wine! And the dried
cherries too! Lord! nothing seems to do her any good.
I am sure if I knew of any thing she would like, I would
send all over the town for it. Well, it is the oddest
thing to me, that a man should use such a pretty girl
so ill! But when there is plenty of money on one side,
and next to none on the other, Lord bless you! they care
no more about such things!--"
"The lady then--Miss Grey I think you called her--
is very rich?"
"Fifty thousand pounds, my dear. Did you ever see
her? a smart, stylish girl they say, but not handsome.
I remember her aunt very well, Biddy Henshawe; she married
a very wealthy man. But the family are all rich together.
Fifty thousand pounds! and by all accounts, it won't come
before it's wanted; for they say he is all to pieces.
No wonder! dashing about with his curricle and hunters!
Well, it don't signify talking; but when a young man,
be who he will, comes and makes love to a pretty girl,
and promises marriage, he has no business to fly off
from his word only because he grows poor, and a richer
girl is ready to have him. Why don't he, in such a case,
sell his horses, let his house, turn off his servants,
and make a thorough reform at once? I warrant you,
Miss Marianne would have been ready to wait till matters
came round. But that won't do now-a-days; nothing in the
way of pleasure can ever be given up by the young men of
"Do you know what kind of a girl Miss Grey is?
Is she said to be amiable?"
"I never heard any harm of her; indeed I hardly ever
heard her mentioned; except that Mrs. Taylor did say
this morning, that one day Miss Walker hinted to her,
that she believed Mr. and Mrs. Ellison would not be sorry
to have Miss Grey married, for she and Mrs. Ellison could
"And who are the Ellisons?"
"Her guardians, my dear. But now she is of age
and may choose for herself; and a pretty choice she has
made!--What now," after pausing a moment--"your poor sister
is gone to her own room, I suppose, to moan by herself.
Is there nothing one can get to comfort her? Poor dear,
it seems quite cruel to let her be alone. Well, by-and-by we
shall have a few friends, and that will amuse her a little.
What shall we play at? She hates whist I know; but is there
no round game she cares for?"
"Dear ma'am, this kindness is quite unnecessary.
Marianne, I dare say, will not leave her room again
this evening. I shall persuade her if I can to go
early to bed, for I am sure she wants rest."
"Aye, I believe that will be best for her. Let her name
her own supper, and go to bed. Lord! no wonder she has
been looking so bad and so cast down this last week or two,
for this matter I suppose has been hanging over her head as
long as that. And so the letter that came today finished it!
Poor soul! I am sure if I had had a notion of it,
I would not have joked her about it for all my money.
But then you know, how should I guess such a thing? I made
sure of its being nothing but a common love letter, and
you know young people like to be laughed at about them. Lord!
how concerned Sir John and my daughters will be when they
hear it! If I had my senses about me I might have called
in Conduit Street in my way home, and told them of it.
But I shall see them tomorrow."
"It would be unnecessary I am sure, for you to caution
Mrs. Palmer and Sir John against ever naming Mr. Willoughby,
or making the slightest allusion to what has passed,
before my sister. Their own good-nature must point out
to them the real cruelty of appearing to know any thing
about it when she is present; and the less that may ever
be said to myself on the subject, the more my feelings
will be spared, as you my dear madam will easily believe."
"Oh! Lord! yes, that I do indeed. It must be terrible
for you to hear it talked of; and as for your sister,
I am sure I would not mention a word about it to her
for the world. You saw I did not all dinner time.
No more would Sir John, nor my daughters, for they are
all very thoughtful and considerate; especially if I
give them a hint, as I certainly will. For my part,
I think the less that is said about such things, the better,
the sooner 'tis blown over and forgot. And what does
talking ever do you know?"
"In this affair it can only do harm; more so
perhaps than in many cases of a similar kind, for it
has been attended by circumstances which, for the sake
of every one concerned in it, make it unfit to become
the public conversation. I must do THIS justice to
Mr. Willoughby--he has broken no positive engagement
with my sister."
"Law, my dear! Don't pretend to defend him.
No positive engagement indeed! after taking her all
over Allenham House, and fixing on the very rooms they
were to live in hereafter!"
Elinor, for her sister's sake, could not press the
subject farther, and she hoped it was not required of her
for Willoughby's; since, though Marianne might lose much,
he could gain very little by the enforcement of the real truth.
After a short silence on both sides, Mrs. Jennings,
with all her natural hilarity, burst forth again.
"Well, my dear, 'tis a true saying about an ill-wind,
for it will be all the better for Colonel Brandon.
He will have her at last; aye, that he will. Mind me,
now, if they an't married by Mid-summer. Lord! how he'll
chuckle over this news! I hope he will come tonight.
It will be all to one a better match for your sister.
Two thousand a year without debt or drawback--except
the little love-child, indeed; aye, I had forgot her;
but she may be 'prenticed out at a small cost, and then
what does it signify? Delaford is a nice place, I can
tell you; exactly what I call a nice old fashioned place,
full of comforts and conveniences; quite shut in with great
garden walls that are covered with the best fruit-trees
in the country; and such a mulberry tree in one corner!
Lord! how Charlotte and I did stuff the only time we
were there! Then, there is a dove-cote, some delightful
stew-ponds, and a very pretty canal; and every thing,
in short, that one could wish for; and, moreover, it is
close to the church, and only a quarter of a mile from
the turnpike-road, so 'tis never dull, for if you only
go and sit up in an old yew arbour behind the house,
you may see all the carriages that pass along.
Oh! 'tis a nice place! A butcher hard by in the village,
and the parsonage-house within a stone's throw.
To my fancy, a thousand times prettier than Barton Park,
where they are forced to send three miles for their meat,
and have not a neighbour nearer than your mother.
Well, I shall spirit up the Colonel as soon as I can.
One shoulder of mutton, you know, drives another down.
If we CAN but put Willoughby out of her head!"
"Ay, if we can do THAT, Ma'am," said Elinor,
"we shall do very well with or without Colonel Brandon."
And then rising, she went away to join Marianne,
whom she found, as she expected, in her own room, leaning,
in silent misery, over the small remains of a fire,
which, till Elinor's entrance, had been her only light.
"You had better leave me," was all the notice
that her sister received from her.
"I will leave you," said Elinor, "if you will go
to bed." But this, from the momentary perverseness
of impatient suffering, she at first refused to do.
Her sister's earnest, though gentle persuasion, however,
soon softened her to compliance, and Elinor saw her
lay her aching head on the pillow, and as she hoped,
in a way to get some quiet rest before she left her.
In the drawing-room, whither she then repaired,
she was soon joined by Mrs. Jennings, with a wine-glass,
full of something, in her hand.
"My dear," said she, entering, "I have just recollected
that I have some of the finest old Constantia wine in the
house that ever was tasted, so I have brought a glass of it
for your sister. My poor husband! how fond he was of it!
Whenever he had a touch of his old colicky gout, he said
it did him more good than any thing else in the world.
Do take it to your sister."
"Dear Ma'am," replied Elinor, smiling at the difference
of the complaints for which it was recommended, "how good
you are! But I have just left Marianne in bed, and, I hope,
almost asleep; and as I think nothing will be of so much
service to her as rest, if you will give me leave,
I will drink the wine myself."
Mrs. Jennings, though regretting that she had not been
five minutes earlier, was satisfied with the compromise;
and Elinor, as she swallowed the chief of it, reflected,
that though its effects on a colicky gout were, at present,
of little importance to her, its healing powers,
on a disappointed heart might be as reasonably tried
on herself as on her sister.
Colonel Brandon came in while the party were at tea,
and by his manner of looking round the room for Marianne,
Elinor immediately fancied that he neither expected
nor wished to see her there, and, in short, that he
was already aware of what occasioned her absence.
Mrs. Jennings was not struck by the same thought;
for soon after his entrance, she walked across the room
to the tea-table where Elinor presided, and whispered--
"The Colonel looks as grave as ever you see. He knows
nothing of it; do tell him, my dear."
He shortly afterwards drew a chair close to her's,
and, with a look which perfectly assured her of his
good information, inquired after her sister.
"Marianne is not well," said she. "She has been
indisposed all day, and we have persuaded her to go to bed."
"Perhaps, then," he hesitatingly replied, "what I
heard this morning may be--there may be more truth in it
than I could believe possible at first."
"What did you hear?"
"That a gentleman, whom I had reason to think--in short,
that a man, whom I KNEW to be engaged--but how shall I
tell you? If you know it already, as surely you must,
I may be spared."
"You mean," answered Elinor, with forced calmness,
"Mr. Willoughby's marriage with Miss Grey. Yes, we DO
know it all. This seems to have been a day of general
elucidation, for this very morning first unfolded it to us.
Mr. Willoughby is unfathomable! Where did you hear it?"
"In a stationer's shop in Pall Mall, where I
had business. Two ladies were waiting for their carriage,
and one of them was giving the other an account of the
intended match, in a voice so little attempting concealment,
that it was impossible for me not to hear all. The name
of Willoughby, John Willoughby, frequently repeated,
first caught my attention; and what followed was a positive
assertion that every thing was now finally settled
respecting his marriage with Miss Grey--it was no longer
to be a secret--it would take place even within a few weeks,
with many particulars of preparations and other matters.
One thing, especially, I remember, because it served
to identify the man still more:--as soon as the ceremony
was over, they were to go to Combe Magna, his seat
in Somersetshire. My astonishment!--but it would be
impossible to describe what I felt. The communicative
lady I learnt, on inquiry, for I stayed in the shop
till they were gone, was a Mrs. Ellison, and that, as I
have been since informed, is the name of Miss Grey's guardian."
"It is. But have you likewise heard that Miss Grey
has fifty thousand pounds? In that, if in any thing,
we may find an explanation."
"It may be so; but Willoughby is capable--at least
I think"--he stopped a moment; then added in a voice
which seemed to distrust itself, "And your sister--
how did she--"
"Her sufferings have been very severe. I have
only to hope that they may be proportionately short.
It has been, it is a most cruel affliction. Till yesterday,
I believe, she never doubted his regard; and even now,
perhaps--but I am almost convinced that he never was
really attached to her. He has been very deceitful! and,
in some points, there seems a hardness of heart about him."
"Ah!" said Colonel Brandon, "there is, indeed! But
your sister does not--I think you said so--she does
not consider quite as you do?"
"You know her disposition, and may believe how eagerly
she would still justify him if she could."
He made no answer; and soon afterwards, by the removal
of the tea-things, and the arrangement of the card parties,
the subject was necessarily dropped. Mrs. Jennings, who had
watched them with pleasure while they were talking, and who
expected to see the effect of Miss Dashwood's communication,
in such an instantaneous gaiety on Colonel Brandon's side,
as might have become a man in the bloom of youth, of hope
and happiness, saw him, with amazement, remain the whole
evening more serious and thoughtful than usual.
From a night of more sleep than she had expected,
Marianne awoke the next morning to the same consciousness
of misery in which she had closed her eyes.
Elinor encouraged her as much as possible to talk
of what she felt; and before breakfast was ready, they had
gone through the subject again and again; and with the same
steady conviction and affectionate counsel on Elinor's side,
the same impetuous feelings and varying opinions on
Marianne's, as before. Sometimes she could believe
Willoughby to be as unfortunate and as innocent as herself,
and at others, lost every consolation in the impossibility
of acquitting him. At one moment she was absolutely
indifferent to the observation of all the world, at another
she would seclude herself from it for ever, and at a third
could resist it with energy. In one thing, however,
she was uniform, when it came to the point, in avoiding,
where it was possible, the presence of Mrs. Jennings,
and in a determined silence when obliged to endure it.
Her heart was hardened against the belief of Mrs. Jennings's
entering into her sorrows with any compassion.
"No, no, no, it cannot be," she cried;
"she cannot feel. Her kindness is not sympathy;
her good-nature is not tenderness. All that she wants
is gossip, and she only likes me now because I supply it."
Elinor had not needed this to be assured of the injustice
to which her sister was often led in her opinion of others,
by the irritable refinement of her own mind, and the too
great importance placed by her on the delicacies of a
strong sensibility, and the graces of a polished manner.
Like half the rest of the world, if more than half there
be that are clever and good, Marianne, with excellent
abilities and an excellent disposition, was neither
reasonable nor candid. She expected from other people
the same opinions and feelings as her own, and she judged
of their motives by the immediate effect of their actions
on herself. Thus a circumstance occurred, while the
sisters were together in their own room after breakfast,
which sunk the heart of Mrs. Jennings still lower
in her estimation; because, through her own weakness,
it chanced to prove a source of fresh pain to herself,
though Mrs. Jennings was governed in it by an impulse
of the utmost goodwill.
With a letter in her outstretched hand, and countenance
gaily smiling, from the persuasion of bringing comfort,
she entered their room, saying,
"Now, my dear, I bring you something that I am sure
will do you good."
Marianne heard enough. In one moment her imagination
placed before her a letter from Willoughby, full of tenderness
and contrition, explanatory of all that had passed, satisfactory,
convincing; and instantly followed by Willoughby himself,
rushing eagerly into the room to inforce, at her feet,
by the eloquence of his eyes, the assurances of his letter.
The work of one moment was destroyed by the next.
The hand writing of her mother, never till then unwelcome,
was before her; and, in the acuteness of the disappointment
which followed such an ecstasy of more than hope,
she felt as if, till that instant, she had never suffered.
The cruelty of Mrs. Jennings no language, within
her reach in her moments of happiest eloquence,
could have expressed; and now she could reproach her
only by the tears which streamed from her eyes with
passionate violence--a reproach, however, so entirely
lost on its object, that after many expressions of pity,
she withdrew, still referring her to the letter of comfort.
But the letter, when she was calm enough to read it,
brought little comfort. Willoughby filled every page.
Her mother, still confident of their engagement, and relying
as warmly as ever on his constancy, had only been roused
by Elinor's application, to intreat from Marianne greater
openness towards them both; and this, with such tenderness
towards her, such affection for Willoughby, and such
a conviction of their future happiness in each other,
that she wept with agony through the whole of it.
All her impatience to be at home again now returned;
her mother was dearer to her than ever; dearer through
the very excess of her mistaken confidence in Willoughby,
and she was wildly urgent to be gone. Elinor, unable herself
to determine whether it were better for Marianne to be
in London or at Barton, offered no counsel of her own
except of patience till their mother's wishes could be known;
and at length she obtained her sister's consent to wait
for that knowledge.
Mrs. Jennings left them earlier than usual; for she
could not be easy till the Middletons and Palmers were able
to grieve as much as herself; and positively refusing
Elinor's offered attendance, went out alone for the rest
of the morning. Elinor, with a very heavy heart, aware of
the pain she was going to communicate, and perceiving,
by Marianne's letter, how ill she had succeeded in laying
any foundation for it, then sat down to write her mother
an account of what had passed, and entreat her directions
for the future; while Marianne, who came into the drawing-room
on Mrs. Jennings's going away, remained fixed at the table
where Elinor wrote, watching the advancement of her pen,
grieving over her for the hardship of such a task,
and grieving still more fondly over its effect on her mother.
In this manner they had continued about a quarter
of an hour, when Marianne, whose nerves could not then
bear any sudden noise, was startled by a rap at the door.
"Who can this be?" cried Elinor. "So early too! I
thought we HAD been safe."
Marianne moved to the window--
"It is Colonel Brandon!" said she, with vexation.
"We are never safe from HIM."
"He will not come in, as Mrs. Jennings is from home."
"I will not trust to THAT," retreating to her own room.
"A man who has nothing to do with his own time has no
conscience in his intrusion on that of others."
The event proved her conjecture right, though it
was founded on injustice and error; for Colonel Brandon
DID come in; and Elinor, who was convinced that
solicitude for Marianne brought him thither, and who saw
THAT solicitude in his disturbed and melancholy look,
and in his anxious though brief inquiry after her,
could not forgive her sister for esteeming him so lightly.
"I met Mrs. Jennings in Bond Street," said he,
after the first salutation, "and she encouraged me
to come on; and I was the more easily encouraged,
because I thought it probable that I might find you alone,
which I was very desirous of doing. My object--my
wish--my sole wish in desiring it--I hope, I believe
it is--is to be a means of giving comfort;--no, I must
not say comfort--not present comfort--but conviction,
lasting conviction to your sister's mind. My regard for her,
for yourself, for your mother--will you allow me to prove it,
by relating some circumstances which nothing but a VERY
sincere regard--nothing but an earnest desire of being
useful--I think I am justified--though where so many hours
have been spent in convincing myself that I am right,
is there not some reason to fear I may be wrong?"
"I understand you," said Elinor. "You have something
to tell me of Mr. Willoughby, that will open his character
farther. Your telling it will be the greatest act of friendship
that can be shewn Marianne. MY gratitude will be insured
immediately by any information tending to that end, and HERS
must be gained by it in time. Pray, pray let me hear it."
"You shall; and, to be brief, when I quitted Barton
last October,--but this will give you no idea--I must go
farther back. You will find me a very awkward narrator,
Miss Dashwood; I hardly know where to begin. A short
account of myself, I believe, will be necessary, and it
SHALL be a short one. On such a subject," sighing heavily,
"can I have little temptation to be diffuse."
He stopt a moment for recollection, and then,
with another sigh, went on.
"You have probably entirely forgotten a conversation--
(it is not to be supposed that it could make any impression
on you)--a conversation between us one evening at Barton
Park--it was the evening of a dance--in which I alluded
to a lady I had once known, as resembling, in some measure,
your sister Marianne."
"Indeed," answered Elinor, "I have NOT forgotten it."
He looked pleased by this remembrance, and added,
"If I am not deceived by the uncertainty, the partiality
of tender recollection, there is a very strong resemblance
between them, as well in mind as person. The same warmth
of heart, the same eagerness of fancy and spirits.
This lady was one of my nearest relations, an orphan from
her infancy, and under the guardianship of my father.
Our ages were nearly the same, and from our earliest years
we were playfellows and friends. I cannot remember the
time when I did not love Eliza; and my affection for her,
as we grew up, was such, as perhaps, judging from my
present forlorn and cheerless gravity, you might think me
incapable of having ever felt. Her's, for me, was, I believe,
fervent as the attachment of your sister to Mr. Willoughby
and it was, though from a different cause, no less unfortunate.
At seventeen she was lost to me for ever. She was
married--married against her inclination to my brother.
Her fortune was large, and our family estate much encumbered.
And this, I fear, is all that can be said for the
conduct of one, who was at once her uncle and guardian.
My brother did not deserve her; he did not even love her.
I had hoped that her regard for me would support her
under any difficulty, and for some time it did; but at
last the misery of her situation, for she experienced
great unkindness, overcame all her resolution, and though
she had promised me that nothing--but how blindly I
relate! I have never told you how this was brought on.
We were within a few hours of eloping together for Scotland.
The treachery, or the folly, of my cousin's maid betrayed us.
I was banished to the house of a relation far distant,
and she was allowed no liberty, no society, no amusement,
till my father's point was gained. I had depended on her
fortitude too far, and the blow was a severe one--
but had her marriage been happy, so young as I then was,
a few months must have reconciled me to it, or at least
I should not have now to lament it. This however
was not the case. My brother had no regard for her;
his pleasures were not what they ought to have been,
and from the first he treated her unkindly. The consequence
of this, upon a mind so young, so lively, so inexperienced
as Mrs. Brandon's, was but too natural. She resigned
herself at first to all the misery of her situation;
and happy had it been if she had not lived to overcome those
regrets which the remembrance of me occasioned. But can we
wonder that, with such a husband to provoke inconstancy,
and without a friend to advise or restrain her (for
my father lived only a few months after their marriage,
and I was with my regiment in the East Indies) she
should fall? Had I remained in England, perhaps--but I
meant to promote the happiness of both by removing
from her for years, and for that purpose had procured
my exchange. The shock which her marriage had given me,"
he continued, in a voice of great agitation, "was of
trifling weight--was nothing to what I felt when I heard,
about two years afterwards, of her divorce. It was
THAT which threw this gloom,--even now the recollection
of what I suffered--"
He could say no more, and rising hastily walked for a few
minutes about the room. Elinor, affected by his relation,
and still more by his distress, could not speak. He saw
her concern, and coming to her, took her hand, pressed it,
and kissed it with grateful respect. A few minutes more
of silent exertion enabled him to proceed with composure.
"It was nearly three years after this unhappy
period before I returned to England. My first care,
when I DID arrive, was of course to seek for her;
but the search was as fruitless as it was melancholy.
I could not trace her beyond her first seducer, and there
was every reason to fear that she had removed from him
only to sink deeper in a life of sin. Her legal allowance
was not adequate to her fortune, nor sufficient for her
comfortable maintenance, and I learnt from my brother that
the power of receiving it had been made over some months
before to another person. He imagined, and calmly could he
imagine it, that her extravagance, and consequent distress,
had obliged her to dispose of it for some immediate relief.
At last, however, and after I had been six months in England,
I DID find her. Regard for a former servant of my own,
who had since fallen into misfortune, carried me to visit
him in a spunging-house, where he was confined for debt;
and there, the same house, under a similar confinement,
was my unfortunate sister. So altered--so faded--worn
down by acute suffering of every kind! hardly could I
believe the melancholy and sickly figure before me,
to be the remains of the lovely, blooming, healthful girl,
on whom I had once doted. What I endured in so beholding
her--but I have no right to wound your feelings by attempting
to describe it--I have pained you too much already.
That she was, to all appearance, in the last stage
of a consumption, was--yes, in such a situation it was
my greatest comfort. Life could do nothing for her,
beyond giving time for a better preparation for death;
and that was given. I saw her placed in comfortable lodgings,
and under proper attendants; I visited her every day