Part 7 out of 8
attribute the change to nothing more than the fatigue
of having sat up to have her bed made; and carefully
administering the cordials prescribed, saw her, with
satisfaction, sink at last into a slumber, from which
she expected the most beneficial effects. Her sleep,
though not so quiet as Elinor wished to see it,
lasted a considerable time; and anxious to observe
the result of it herself, she resolved to sit with her
during the whole of it. Mrs. Jennings, knowing nothing
of any change in the patient, went unusually early to bed;
her maid, who was one of the principal nurses, was recreating
herself in the housekeeper's room, and Elinor remained
alone with Marianne.
The repose of the latter became more and more disturbed;
and her sister, who watched, with unremitting attention
her continual change of posture, and heard the frequent
but inarticulate sounds of complaint which passed her lips,
was almost wishing to rouse her from so painful a slumber,
when Marianne, suddenly awakened by some accidental noise
in the house, started hastily up, and, with feverish wildness,
"Is mama coming?--"
"Not yet," cried the other, concealing her terror,
and assisting Marianne to lie down again, "but she will
be here, I hope, before it is long. It is a great way,
you know, from hence to Barton."
"But she must not go round by London," cried Marianne,
in the same hurried manner. "I shall never see her,
if she goes by London."
Elinor perceived with alarm that she was not
quite herself, and, while attempting to soothe her,
eagerly felt her pulse. It was lower and quicker than ever!
and Marianne, still talking wildly of mama, her alarm
increased so rapidly, as to determine her on sending
instantly for Mr. Harris, and despatching a messenger
to Barton for her mother. To consult with Colonel Brandon
on the best means of effecting the latter, was a thought
which immediately followed the resolution of its performance;
and as soon she had rung up the maid to take her place
by her sister, she hastened down to the drawing-room,
where she knew he was generally to be found at a much
later hour than the present.
It was no time for hesitation. Her fears and her
difficulties were immediately before him. Her fears,
he had no courage, no confidence to attempt the removal of:--
he listened to them in silent despondence;--but her
difficulties were instantly obviated, for with a readiness
that seemed to speak the occasion, and the service
pre-arranged in his mind, he offered himself as the
messenger who should fetch Mrs. Dashwood. Elinor made no
resistance that was not easily overcome. She thanked him
with brief, though fervent gratitude, and while he went
to hurry off his servant with a message to Mr. Harris, and
an order for post-horses directly, she wrote a few lines
to her mother.
The comfort of such a friend at that moment as Colonel
Brandon--or such a companion for her mother,--how gratefully
was it felt!--a companion whose judgment would guide,
whose attendance must relieve, and whose friendship might
soothe her!--as far as the shock of such a summons COULD
be lessened to her, his presence, his manners, his assistance,
would lessen it.
HE, meanwhile, whatever he might feel, acted with all
the firmness of a collected mind, made every necessary
arrangement with the utmost despatch, and calculated
with exactness the time in which she might look for
his return. Not a moment was lost in delay of any kind.
The horses arrived, even before they were expected,
and Colonel Brandon only pressing her hand with a look
of solemnity, and a few words spoken too low to reach her ear,
hurried into the carriage. It was then about twelve
o'clock, and she returned to her sister's apartment to wait
for the arrival of the apothecary, and to watch by her
the rest of the night. It was a night of almost equal
suffering to both. Hour after hour passed away in sleepless
pain and delirium on Marianne's side, and in the most
cruel anxiety on Elinor's, before Mr. Harris appeared.
Her apprehensions once raised, paid by their excess for all
her former security; and the servant who sat up with her,
for she would not allow Mrs. Jennings to be called,
only tortured her more, by hints of what her mistress
had always thought.
Marianne's ideas were still, at intervals,
fixed incoherently on her mother, and whenever she
mentioned her name, it gave a pang to the heart of
poor Elinor, who, reproaching herself for having trifled
with so many days of illness, and wretched for some
immediate relief, fancied that all relief might soon
be in vain, that every thing had been delayed too long,
and pictured to herself her suffering mother arriving
too late to see this darling child, or to see her rational.
She was on the point of sending again for Mr. Harris,
or if HE could not come, for some other advice,
when the former--but not till after five o'clock--arrived.
His opinion, however, made some little amends for his delay,
for though acknowledging a very unexpected and unpleasant
alteration in his patient, he would not allow the danger
to be material, and talked of the relief which a fresh
mode of treatment must procure, with a confidence which,
in a lesser degree, was communicated to Elinor. He promised
to call again in the course of three or four hours,
and left both the patient and her anxious attendant more
composed than he had found them.
With strong concern, and with many reproaches for not
being called to their aid, did Mrs. Jennings hear in the
morning of what had passed. Her former apprehensions,
now with greater reason restored, left her no doubt of
the event; and though trying to speak comfort to Elinor,
her conviction of her sister's danger would not allow her
to offer the comfort of hope. Her heart was really grieved.
The rapid decay, the early death of a girl so young,
so lovely as Marianne, must have struck a less interested
person with concern. On Mrs. Jennings's compassion
she had other claims. She had been for three months
her companion, was still under her care, and she was
known to have been greatly injured, and long unhappy.
The distress of her sister too, particularly a favourite,
was before her;--and as for their mother, when Mrs. Jennings
considered that Marianne might probably be to HER what
Charlotte was to herself, her sympathy in HER sufferings
was very sincere.
Mr. Harris was punctual in his second visit;--
but he came to be disappointed in his hopes of what the
last would produce. His medicines had failed;--the fever
was unabated; and Marianne only more quiet--not more
herself--remained in a heavy stupor. Elinor, catching all,
and more than all, his fears in a moment, proposed to call
in further advice. But he judged it unnecessary: he had
still something more to try, some more fresh application,
of whose success he was as confident as the last, and his
visit concluded with encouraging assurances which reached
the ear, but could not enter the heart of Miss Dashwood.
She was calm, except when she thought of her mother;
but she was almost hopeless; and in this state she continued
till noon, scarcely stirring from her sister's bed,
her thoughts wandering from one image of grief,
one suffering friend to another, and her spirits oppressed
to the utmost by the conversation of Mrs. Jennings,
who scrupled not to attribute the severity and danger
of this attack to the many weeks of previous indisposition
which Marianne's disappointment had brought on.
Elinor felt all the reasonableness of the idea, and it
gave fresh misery to her reflections.
About noon, however, she began--but with a caution--a
dread of disappointment which for some time kept her silent,
even to her friend--to fancy, to hope she could perceive
a slight amendment in her sister's pulse;--she waited,
watched, and examined it again and again;--and at last,
with an agitation more difficult to bury under exterior calmness,
than all her foregoing distress, ventured to communicate
her hopes. Mrs. Jennings, though forced, on examination,
to acknowledge a temporary revival, tried to keep her
young friend from indulging a thought of its continuance;--
and Elinor, conning over every injunction of distrust,
told herself likewise not to hope. But it was too late.
Hope had already entered; and feeling all its anxious flutter,
she bent over her sister to watch--she hardly knew for what.
Half an hour passed away, and the favourable symptom
yet blessed her. Others even arose to confirm it.
Her breath, her skin, her lips, all flattered Elinor
with signs of amendment; and Marianne fixed her eyes on
her with a rational, though languid, gaze. Anxiety and
hope now oppressed her in equal degrees, and left her no
moment of tranquillity till the arrival of Mr. Harris at
four o'clock;--when his assurances, his felicitations on
a recovery in her sister even surpassing his expectation,
gave her confidence, comfort, and tears of joy.
Marianne was in every respect materially better,
and he declared her entirely out of danger. Mrs. Jennings,
perhaps satisfied with the partial justification of her
forebodings which had been found in their late alarm,
allowed herself to trust in his judgment, and admitted,
with unfeigned joy, and soon with unequivocal cheerfulness,
the probability of an entire recovery.
Elinor could not be cheerful. Her joy was of a
different kind, and led to any thing rather than to gaiety.
Marianne restored to life, health, friends, and to her
doting mother, was an idea to fill her heart with sensations
of exquisite comfort, and expand it in fervent gratitude;--
but it lead to no outward demonstrations of joy, no words,
no smiles. All within Elinor's breast was satisfaction,
silent and strong.
She continued by the side of her sister, with little
intermission the whole afternoon, calming every fear,
satisfying every inquiry of her enfeebled spirits,
supplying every succour, and watching almost every look and
every breath. The possibility of a relapse would of course,
in some moments, occur to remind her of what anxiety was--
but when she saw, on her frequent and minute examination,
that every symptom of recovery continued, and saw Marianne
at six o'clock sink into a quiet, steady, and to all
appearance comfortable, sleep, she silenced every doubt.
The time was now drawing on, when Colonel Brandon
might be expected back. At ten o'clock, she trusted,
or at least not much later her mother would be relieved
from the dreadful suspense in which she must now be
travelling towards them. The Colonel, too!--perhaps scarcely
less an object of pity!--Oh!--how slow was the progress
of time which yet kept them in ignorance!
At seven o'clock, leaving Marianne still sweetly asleep,
she joined Mrs. Jennings in the drawing-room to tea.
Of breakfast she had been kept by her fears, and of
dinner by their sudden reverse, from eating much;--
and the present refreshment, therefore, with such feelings
of content as she brought to it, was particularly welcome.
Mrs. Jennings would have persuaded her, at its conclusion,
to take some rest before her mother's arrival, and allow HER to
take her place by Marianne; but Elinor had no sense of fatigue,
no capability of sleep at that moment about her, and she was
not to be kept away from her sister an unnecessary instant.
Mrs. Jennings therefore attending her up stairs into the
sick chamber, to satisfy herself that all continued right,
left her there again to her charge and her thoughts,
and retired to her own room to write letters and sleep.
The night was cold and stormy. The wind roared
round the house, and the rain beat against the windows;
but Elinor, all happiness within, regarded it not.
Marianne slept through every blast; and the travellers--
they had a rich reward in store, for every present inconvenience.
The clock struck eight. Had it been ten,
Elinor would have been convinced that at that moment
she heard a carriage driving up to the house;
and so strong was the persuasion that she DID, in spite
of the ALMOST impossibility of their being already come,
that she moved into the adjoining dressing-closet and
opened a window shutter, to be satisfied of the truth.
She instantly saw that her ears had not deceived her.
The flaring lamps of a carriage were immediately in view.
By their uncertain light she thought she could discern it
to be drawn by four horses; and this, while it told the
excess of her poor mother's alarm, gave some explanation
to such unexpected rapidity.
Never in her life had Elinor found it so difficult
to be calm, as at that moment. The knowledge of what her
mother must be feeling as the carriage stopt at the door--
of her doubt--her dread--perhaps her despair!--and
of what SHE had to tell!--with such knowledge it was
impossible to be calm. All that remained to be done
was to be speedy; and, therefore staying only till
she could leave Mrs. Jennings's maid with her sister,
she hurried down stairs.
The bustle in the vestibule, as she passed along
an inner lobby, assured her that they were already
in the house. She rushed to the drawing-room,--she
entered it,--and saw only Willoughby.
Elinor, starting back with a look of horror at
the sight of him, obeyed the first impulse of her heart
in turning instantly to quit the room, and her hand
was already on the lock, when its action was suspended
by his hastily advancing, and saying, in a voice rather
of command than supplication,
"Miss Dashwood, for half an hour--for ten minutes--
I entreat you to stay."
"No, sir," she replied with firmness, "I shall NOT stay.
Your business cannot be with ME. The servants, I suppose,
forgot to tell you that Mr. Palmer was not in the house."
"Had they told me," he cried with vehemence,
"that Mr. Palmer and all his relations were at the devil,
it would not have turned me from the door. My business
is with you, and only you."
"With me!"--in the utmost amazement--"well, sir,--
be quick--and if you can--less violent."
"Sit down, and I will be both."
She hesitated; she knew not what to do. The possibility
of Colonel Brandon's arriving and finding her there,
came across her. But she had promised to hear him,
and her curiosity no less than her honor was engaged.
After a moment's recollection, therefore, concluding that
prudence required dispatch, and that her acquiescence would
best promote it, she walked silently towards the table,
and sat down. He took the opposite chair, and for half
a minute not a word was said by either.
"Pray be quick, sir,"--said Elinor, impatiently;--
"I have no time to spare."
He was sitting in an attitude of deep meditation,
and seemed not to hear her.
"Your sister," said he, with abruptness, a moment
afterwards--"is out of danger. I heard it from the servant.
God be praised!--But is it true? is it really true?"
Elinor would not speak. He repeated the inquiry with
yet greater eagerness.
"For God's sake tell me, is she out of danger, or is she not?"
"We hope she is."
He rose up, and walked across the room.
"Had I known as much half an hour ago--But
since I AM here,"--speaking with a forced vivacity as he
returned to his seat--"what does it signify?--For once,
Miss Dashwood--it will be the last time, perhaps--let us
be cheerful together.--I am in a fine mood for gaiety.--
Tell me honestly"--a deeper glow overspreading his cheeks--
"do you think me most a knave or a fool?"
Elinor looked at him with greater astonishment than ever.
She began to think that he must be in liquor;--the
strangeness of such a visit, and of such manners,
seemed no otherwise intelligible; and with this impression
she immediately rose, saying,
"Mr. Willoughby, I advise you at present to return
to Combe--I am not at leisure to remain with you longer.--
Whatever your business may be with me, will it be better
recollected and explained to-morrow."
"I understand you," he replied, with an expressive smile,
and a voice perfectly calm; "yes, I am very drunk.--
A pint of porter with my cold beef at Marlborough was
enough to over-set me."
"At Marlborough!"--cried Elinor, more and more at
a loss to understand what he would be at.
"Yes,--I left London this morning at eight o'clock,
and the only ten minutes I have spent out of my chaise
since that time procured me a nuncheon at Marlborough."
The steadiness of his manner, and the intelligence
of his eye as he spoke, convincing Elinor, that whatever
other unpardonable folly might bring him to Cleveland,
he was not brought there by intoxication, she said,
after a moment's recollection,
"Mr. Willoughby, you OUGHT to feel, and I certainly
DO--that after what has passed--your coming here in
this manner, and forcing yourself upon my notice,
requires a very particular excuse.--What is it,
that you mean by it?"--
"I mean,"--said he, with serious energy--"if I can,
to make you hate me one degree less than you do NOW.
I mean to offer some kind of explanation, some kind
of apology, for the past; to open my whole heart to you,
and by convincing you, that though I have been always
a blockhead, I have not been always a rascal, to obtain
something like forgiveness from Ma--from your sister."
"Is this the real reason of your coming?"
"Upon my soul it is,"--was his answer, with a warmth
which brought all the former Willoughby to her remembrance,
and in spite of herself made her think him sincere.
"If that is all, you may be satisfied already,--
for Marianne DOES--she has LONG forgiven you."
"Has she?"--he cried, in the same eager tone.--
"Then she has forgiven me before she ought to have done it.
But she shall forgive me again, and on more reasonable
grounds.--NOW will you listen to me?"
Elinor bowed her assent.
"I do not know," said he, after a pause of expectation
on her side, and thoughtfulness on his own,--"how YOU
may have accounted for my behaviour to your sister,
or what diabolical motive you may have imputed to me.--
Perhaps you will hardly think the better of me,--it is
worth the trial however, and you shall hear every thing.
When I first became intimate in your family, I had no
other intention, no other view in the acquaintance
than to pass my time pleasantly while I was obliged to remain
in Devonshire, more pleasantly than I had ever done before.
Your sister's lovely person and interesting manners
could not but please me; and her behaviour to me almost
from the first, was of a kind--It is astonishing,
when I reflect on what it was, and what SHE was, that my
heart should have been so insensible! But at first
I must confess, my vanity only was elevated by it.
Careless of her happiness, thinking only of my own amusement,
giving way to feelings which I had always been too much
in the habit of indulging, I endeavoured, by every means
in my power, to make myself pleasing to her, without any
design of returning her affection."
Miss Dashwood, at this point, turning her eyes on him
with the most angry contempt, stopped him, by saying,
"It is hardly worth while, Mr. Willoughby,
for you to relate, or for me to listen any longer.
Such a beginning as this cannot be followed by any thing.--
Do not let me be pained by hearing any thing more on
"I insist on you hearing the whole of it," he replied,
"My fortune was never large, and I had always been expensive,
always in the habit of associating with people of better
income than myself. Every year since my coming of age,
or even before, I believe, had added to my debts; and though
the death of my old cousin, Mrs. Smith, was to set me free;
yet that event being uncertain, and possibly far distant,
it had been for some time my intention to re-establish my
circumstances by marrying a woman of fortune. To attach
myself to your sister, therefore, was not a thing to be
thought of;--and with a meanness, selfishness, cruelty--
which no indignant, no contemptuous look, even of yours,
Miss Dashwood, can ever reprobate too much--I was acting
in this manner, trying to engage her regard, without a
thought of returning it.--But one thing may be said
for me: even in that horrid state of selfish vanity,
I did not know the extent of the injury I meditated,
because I did not THEN know what it was to love.
But have I ever known it?--Well may it be doubted; for, had I
really loved, could I have sacrificed my feelings to vanity,
to avarice?--or, what is more, could I have sacrificed hers?--
But I have done it. To avoid a comparative poverty,
which her affection and her society would have deprived
of all its horrors, I have, by raising myself to affluence,
lost every thing that could make it a blessing."
"You did then," said Elinor, a little softened,
"believe yourself at one time attached to her?"
"To have resisted such attractions, to have withstood
such tenderness!--Is there a man on earth who could have
done it?--Yes, I found myself, by insensible degrees,
sincerely fond of her; and the happiest hours of my life
were what I spent with her when I felt my intentions
were strictly honourable, and my feelings blameless.
Even THEN, however, when fully determined on paying
my addresses to her, I allowed myself most improperly
to put off, from day to day, the moment of doing it,
from an unwillingness to enter into an engagement
while my circumstances were so greatly embarrassed.
I will not reason here--nor will I stop for YOU to expatiate
on the absurdity, and the worse than absurdity, of scrupling
to engage my faith where my honour was already bound.
The event has proved, that I was a cunning fool,
providing with great circumspection for a possible
opportunity of making myself contemptible and wretched
for ever. At last, however, my resolution was taken,
and I had determined, as soon as I could engage her alone,
to justify the attentions I had so invariably paid her,
and openly assure her of an affection which I had already
taken such pains to display. But in the interim--in the
interim of the very few hours that were to pass, before I
could have an opportunity of speaking with her in private--
a circumstance occurred--an unlucky circumstance, to ruin
all my resolution, and with it all my comfort. A discovery
took place,"--here he hesitated and looked down.--"Mrs. Smith
had somehow or other been informed, I imagine by some
distant relation, whose interest it was to deprive me of
her favour, of an affair, a connection--but I need not
explain myself farther," he added, looking at her with an
heightened colour and an enquiring eye--"your particular
intimacy--you have probably heard the whole story long ago."
"I have," returned Elinor, colouring likewise,
and hardening her heart anew against any compassion for him,
"I have heard it all. And how you will explain away any
part of your guilt in that dreadful business, I confess
is beyond my comprehension."
"Remember," cried Willoughby, "from whom you received
the account. Could it be an impartial one? I acknowledge
that her situation and her character ought to have been
respected by me. I do not mean to justify myself, but at
the same time cannot leave you to suppose that I have nothing
to urge--that because she was injured she was irreproachable,
and because I was a libertine, SHE must be a saint.
If the violence of her passions, the weakness of her
understanding--I do not mean, however, to defend myself.
Her affection for me deserved better treatment, and I often,
with great self-reproach, recall the tenderness which,
for a very short time, had the power of creating any return.
I wish--I heartily wish it had never been. But I have injured
more than herself; and I have injured one, whose affection
for me--(may I say it?) was scarcely less warm than hers;
and whose mind--Oh! how infinitely superior!"--
"Your indifference, however, towards that unfortunate
girl--I must say it, unpleasant to me as the discussion
of such a subject may well be--your indifference is no
apology for your cruel neglect of her. Do not think yourself
excused by any weakness, any natural defect of understanding
on her side, in the wanton cruelty so evident on yours.
You must have known, that while you were enjoying yourself
in Devonshire pursuing fresh schemes, always gay,
always happy, she was reduced to the extremest indigence."
"But, upon my soul, I did NOT know it," he warmly
replied; "I did not recollect that I had omitted to give
her my direction; and common sense might have told her
how to find it out."
"Well, sir, and what said Mrs. Smith?"
"She taxed me with the offence at once, and my confusion
may be guessed. The purity of her life, the formality
of her notions, her ignorance of the world--every thing
was against me. The matter itself I could not deny,
and vain was every endeavour to soften it. She was
previously disposed, I believe, to doubt the morality of my
conduct in general, and was moreover discontented with
the very little attention, the very little portion of my
time that I had bestowed on her, in my present visit.
In short, it ended in a total breach. By one measure I
might have saved myself. In the height of her morality,
good woman! she offered to forgive the past, if I would
marry Eliza. That could not be--and I was formally
dismissed from her favour and her house. The night
following this affair--I was to go the next morning--
was spent by me in deliberating on what my future conduct
should be. The struggle was great--but it ended too soon.
My affection for Marianne, my thorough conviction of her
attachment to me--it was all insufficient to outweigh
that dread of poverty, or get the better of those false
ideas of the necessity of riches, which I was naturally
inclined to feel, and expensive society had increased.
I had reason to believe myself secure of my present wife,
if I chose to address her, and I persuaded myself to think
that nothing else in common prudence remained for me to do.
A heavy scene however awaited me, before I could leave
Devonshire;--I was engaged to dine with you on that very day;
some apology was therefore necessary for my breaking
this engagement. But whether I should write this apology,
or deliver it in person, was a point of long debate.
To see Marianne, I felt, would be dreadful, and I even doubted
whether I could see her again, and keep to my resolution.
In that point, however, I undervalued my own magnanimity,
as the event declared; for I went, I saw her, and saw
her miserable, and left her miserable--and left her hoping
never to see her again."
"Why did you call, Mr. Willoughby?" said Elinor,
reproachfully; "a note would have answered every purpose.--
Why was it necessary to call?"
"It was necessary to my own pride. I could not bear
to leave the country in a manner that might lead you,
or the rest of the neighbourhood, to suspect any part
of what had really passed between Mrs. Smith and myself--
and I resolved therefore on calling at the cottage,
in my way to Honiton. The sight of your dear sister,
however, was really dreadful; and, to heighten the matter,
I found her alone. You were all gone I do not know where.
I had left her only the evening before, so fully,
so firmly resolved within my self on doing right!
A few hours were to have engaged her to me for ever;
and I remember how happy, how gay were my spirits, as I
walked from the cottage to Allenham, satisfied with myself,
delighted with every body! But in this, our last interview
of friendship, I approached her with a sense of guilt
that almost took from me the power of dissembling.
Her sorrow, her disappointment, her deep regret, when I told
her that I was obliged to leave Devonshire so immediately--I
never shall forget it--united too with such reliance,
such confidence in me!--Oh, God!--what a hard-hearted
rascal I was!"
They were both silent for a few moments.
Elinor first spoke.
"Did you tell her that you should soon return?"
"I do not know what I told her," he replied, impatiently;
"less than was due to the past, beyond a doubt, and in all
likelihood much more than was justified by the future.
I cannot think of it.--It won't do.--Then came your dear mother
to torture me farther, with all her kindness and confidence.
Thank Heaven! it DID torture me. I was miserable.
Miss Dashwood, you cannot have an idea of the comfort it
gives me to look back on my own misery. I owe such a grudge
to myself for the stupid, rascally folly of my own heart,
that all my past sufferings under it are only triumph and
exultation to me now. Well, I went, left all that I loved,
and went to those to whom, at best, I was only indifferent.
My journey to town--travelling with my own horses,
and therefore so tediously--no creature to speak to--my
own reflections so cheerful--when I looked forward
every thing so inviting!--when I looked back at Barton,
the picture so soothing!--oh, it was a blessed journey!"
"Well, sir," said Elinor, who, though pitying him,
grew impatient for his departure, "and this is all?"
"Ah!--no,--have you forgot what passed in town?--
That infamous letter--Did she shew it you?"
"Yes, I saw every note that passed."
"When the first of hers reached me (as it immediately did,
for I was in town the whole time,) what I felt is--
in the common phrase, not to be expressed; in a more
simple one--perhaps too simple to raise any emotion--
my feelings were very, very painful.--Every line, every word
was--in the hackneyed metaphor which their dear writer,
were she here, would forbid--a dagger to my heart.
To know that Marianne was in town was--in the same language--
a thunderbolt.--Thunderbolts and daggers!--what a reproof
would she have given me!--her taste, her opinions--I believe
they are better known to me than my own,--and I am sure
they are dearer."
Elinor's heart, which had undergone many changes
in the course of this extraordinary conversation,
was now softened again;--yet she felt it her duty to check
such ideas in her companion as the last.
"This is not right, Mr. Willoughby.--Remember that
you are married. Relate only what in your conscience
you think necessary for me to hear."
"Marianne's note, by assuring me that I was still
as dear to her as in former days, that in spite of the many,
many weeks we had been separated, she was as constant
in her own feelings, and as full of faith in the constancy
of mine as ever, awakened all my remorse. I say awakened,
because time and London, business and dissipation,
had in some measure quieted it, and I had been growing
a fine hardened villain, fancying myself indifferent to her,
and chusing to fancy that she too must have become
indifferent to me; talking to myself of our past attachment
as a mere idle, trifling business, shrugging up my shoulders
in proof of its being so, and silencing every reproach,
overcoming every scruple, by secretly saying now and then,
'I shall be heartily glad to hear she is well married.'--
But this note made me know myself better. I felt that
she was infinitely dearer to me than any other woman
in the world, and that I was using her infamously.
But every thing was then just settled between Miss Grey
and me. To retreat was impossible. All that I had to do,
was to avoid you both. I sent no answer to Marianne,
intending by that to preserve myself from her farther notice;
and for some time I was even determined not to call in
Berkeley Street;--but at last, judging it wiser to affect
the air of a cool, common acquaintance than anything else,
I watched you all safely out of the house one morning,
and left my name."
"Watched us out of the house!"
"Even so. You would be surprised to hear how often
I watched you, how often I was on the point of falling
in with you. I have entered many a shop to avoid your sight,
as the carriage drove by. Lodging as I did in Bond Street,
there was hardly a day in which I did not catch a glimpse
of one or other of you; and nothing but the most constant
watchfulness on my side, a most invariably prevailing
desire to keep out of your sight, could have separated us
so long. I avoided the Middletons as much as possible,
as well as everybody else who was likely to prove
an acquaintance in common. Not aware of their being
in town, however, I blundered on Sir John, I believe,
the first day of his coming, and the day after I had called
at Mrs. Jennings's. He asked me to a party, a dance at his
house in the evening.--Had he NOT told me as an inducement
that you and your sister were to be there, I should have
felt it too certain a thing, to trust myself near him.
The next morning brought another short note from Marianne--
still affectionate, open, artless, confiding--everything
that could make MY conduct most hateful. I could not
answer it. I tried--but could not frame a sentence.
But I thought of her, I believe, every moment of the day.
If you CAN pity me, Miss Dashwood, pity my situation as it
was THEN. With my head and heart full of your sister,
I was forced to play the happy lover to another woman!--Those
three or four weeks were worse than all. Well, at last,
as I need not tell you, you were forced on me; and what a
sweet figure I cut!--what an evening of agony it was!--
Marianne, beautiful as an angel on one side, calling me
Willoughby in such a tone!--Oh, God!--holding out her hand
to me, asking me for an explanation, with those bewitching
eyes fixed in such speaking solicitude on my face!--and
Sophia, jealous as the devil on the other hand, looking
all that was--Well, it does not signify; it is over now.--
Such an evening!--I ran away from you all as soon as I could;
but not before I had seen Marianne's sweet face as white
as death.--THAT was the last, last look I ever had of her;--
the last manner in which she appeared to me. It was a horrid
sight!--yet when I thought of her to-day as really dying,
it was a kind of comfort to me to imagine that I knew
exactly how she would appear to those, who saw her last
in this world. She was before me, constantly before me,
as I travelled, in the same look and hue."
A short pause of mutual thoughtfulness succeeded.
Willoughby first rousing himself, broke it thus:
"Well, let me make haste and be gone. Your sister
is certainly better, certainly out of danger?"
"We are assured of it."
"Your poor mother, too!--doting on Marianne."
"But the letter, Mr. Willoughby, your own letter;
have you any thing to say about that?"
"Yes, yes, THAT in particular. Your sister
wrote to me again, you know, the very next morning.
You saw what she said. I was breakfasting at the
Ellisons,--and her letter, with some others, was brought
to me there from my lodgings. It happened to catch
Sophia's eye before it caught mine--and its size,
the elegance of the paper, the hand-writing altogether,
immediately gave her a suspicion. Some vague report had
reached her before of my attachment to some young lady
in Devonshire, and what had passed within her observation
the preceding evening had marked who the young lady was,
and made her more jealous than ever. Affecting that air
of playfulness, therefore, which is delightful in a woman
one loves, she opened the letter directly, and read
its contents. She was well paid for her impudence.
She read what made her wretched. Her wretchedness I could
have borne, but her passion--her malice--At all events it
must be appeased. And, in short--what do you think of my
wife's style of letter-writing?--delicate--tender--
truly feminine--was it not?"
"Your wife!--The letter was in your own hand-writing."
"Yes, but I had only the credit of servilely copying
such sentences as I was ashamed to put my name to.
The original was all her own--her own happy thoughts
and gentle diction. But what could I do!--we were engaged,
every thing in preparation, the day almost fixed--But I am
talking like a fool. Preparation!--day!--In honest words,
her money was necessary to me, and in a situation like
mine, any thing was to be done to prevent a rupture.
And after all, what did it signify to my character
in the opinion of Marianne and her friends, in what language
my answer was couched?--It must have been only to one end.
My business was to declare myself a scoundrel, and whether
I did it with a bow or a bluster was of little importance.--
'I am ruined for ever in their opinion--' said I to
myself--'I am shut out for ever from their society,
they already think me an unprincipled fellow, this letter
will only make them think me a blackguard one.' Such were
my reasonings, as, in a sort of desperate carelessness,
I copied my wife's words, and parted with the last relics
of Marianne. Her three notes--unluckily they were all
in my pocketbook, or I should have denied their existence,
and hoarded them for ever--I was forced to put them up,
and could not even kiss them. And the lock of hair--that too
I had always carried about me in the same pocket-book,
which was now searched by Madam with the most ingratiating
virulence,--the dear lock--all, every memento was torn from me."
"You are very wrong, Mr. Willoughby, very blamable,"
said Elinor, while her voice, in spite of herself,
betrayed her compassionate emotion; "you ought not to speak
in this way, either of Mrs. Willoughby or my sister.
You had made your own choice. It was not forced on you.
Your wife has a claim to your politeness, to your respect,
at least. She must be attached to you, or she would not
have married you. To treat her with unkindness, to speak
of her slightingly is no atonement to Marianne--nor can I
suppose it a relief to your own conscience."
"Do not talk to me of my wife," said he with a heavy sigh.--
"She does not deserve your compassion.--She knew I had no
regard for her when we married.--Well, married we were,
and came down to Combe Magna to be happy, and afterwards
returned to town to be gay.--And now do you pity me,
Miss Dashwood?--or have I said all this to no purpose?--
Am I--be it only one degree--am I less guilty in your opinion
than I was before?--My intentions were not always wrong.
Have I explained away any part of my guilt?"
"Yes, you have certainly removed something--a little.--
You have proved yourself, on the whole, less faulty than
I had believed you. You have proved your heart less wicked,
much less wicked. But I hardly know--the misery that
you have inflicted--I hardly know what could have made
"Will you repeat to your sister when she is recovered,
what I have been telling you?--Let me be a little lightened
too in her opinion as well as in yours. You tell me that
she has forgiven me already. Let me be able to fancy that
a better knowledge of my heart, and of my present feelings,
will draw from her a more spontaneous, more natural, more
gentle, less dignified, forgiveness. Tell her of my misery
and my penitence--tell her that my heart was never inconstant
to her, and if you will, that at this moment she is dearer
to me than ever."
"I will tell her all that is necessary to what may
comparatively be called, your justification. But you have
not explained to me the particular reason of your coming now,
nor how you heard of her illness."
"Last night, in Drury Lane lobby, I ran against Sir
John Middleton, and when he saw who I was--for the first
time these two months--he spoke to me.--That he had cut
me ever since my marriage, I had seen without surprise
or resentment. Now, however, his good-natured, honest,
stupid soul, full of indignation against me, and concern
for your sister, could not resist the temptation of telling
me what he knew ought to--though probably he did not
think it WOULD--vex me horridly. As bluntly as he could
speak it, therefore, he told me that Marianne Dashwood
was dying of a putrid fever at Cleveland--a letter that
morning received from Mrs. Jennings declared her danger
most imminent--the Palmers are all gone off in a fright,
&c.--I was too much shocked to be able to pass myself
off as insensible even to the undiscerning Sir John.
His heart was softened in seeing mine suffer; and so much
of his ill-will was done away, that when we parted,
he almost shook me by the hand while he reminded me of an
old promise about a pointer puppy. What I felt on hearing
that your sister was dying--and dying too, believing me
the greatest villain upon earth, scorning, hating me
in her latest moments--for how could I tell what horrid
projects might not have been imputed? ONE person I
was sure would represent me as capable of any thing--
What I felt was dreadful!--My resolution was soon made,
and at eight o'clock this morning I was in my carriage.
Now you know all."
Elinor made no answer. Her thoughts were silently fixed
on the irreparable injury which too early an independence
and its consequent habits of idleness, dissipation, and luxury,
had made in the mind, the character, the happiness,
of a man who, to every advantage of person and talents,
united a disposition naturally open and honest, and a
feeling, affectionate temper. The world had made him
extravagant and vain--Extravagance and vanity had made him
cold-hearted and selfish. Vanity, while seeking its own
guilty triumph at the expense of another, had involved
him in a real attachment, which extravagance, or at least
its offspring, necessity, had required to be sacrificed.
Each faulty propensity in leading him to evil, had led
him likewise to punishment. The attachment, from which
against honour, against feeling, against every better interest
he had outwardly torn himself, now, when no longer allowable,
governed every thought; and the connection, for the sake
of which he had, with little scruple, left her sister
to misery, was likely to prove a source of unhappiness
to himself of a far more incurable nature. From a reverie
of this kind she was recalled at the end of some minutes
by Willoughby, who, rousing himself from a reverie at least
equally painful, started up in preparation for going, and said--
"There is no use in staying here; I must be off."
"Are you going back to town?"
"No--to Combe Magna. I have business there;
from thence to town in a day or two. Good bye."
He held out his hand. She could not refuse to give
him hers's;--he pressed it with affection.
"And you DO think something better of me than
you did?"--said he, letting it fall, and leaning against
the mantel-piece as if forgetting he was to go.
Elinor assured him that she did;--that she forgave,
pitied, wished him well--was even interested in his
happiness--and added some gentle counsel as to the behaviour
most likely to promote it. His answer was not very encouraging.
"As to that," said he, "I must rub through the world
as well as I can. Domestic happiness is out of the question.
If, however, I am allowed to think that you and yours feel
an interest in my fate and actions, it may be the means--it
may put me on my guard--at least, it may be something to
live for. Marianne to be sure is lost to me for ever.
Were I even by any blessed chance at liberty again--"
Elinor stopped him with a reproof.
"Well,"--he replied--"once more good bye. I shall
now go away and live in dread of one event."
"What do you mean?"
"Your sister's marriage."
"You are very wrong. She can never be more lost
to you than she is now."
"But she will be gained by some one else. And if
that some one should be the very he whom, of all others,
I could least bear--but I will not stay to rob myself
of all your compassionate goodwill, by shewing
that where I have most injured I can least forgive.
Good bye,--God bless you!"
And with these words, he almost ran out of the room.
Elinor, for some time after he left her, for some time
even after the sound of his carriage had died away, remained
too much oppressed by a crowd of ideas, widely differing in
themselves, but of which sadness was the general result,
to think even of her sister.
Willoughby, he, whom only half an hour ago she had
abhorred as the most worthless of men, Willoughby, in spite
of all his faults, excited a degree of commiseration
for the sufferings produced by them, which made her
think of him as now separated for ever from her family,
with a tenderness, a regret, rather in proportion, as she
soon acknowledged within herself--to his wishes than to
his merits. She felt that his influence over her mind
was heightened by circumstances which ought not in reason
to have weight; by that person of uncommon attraction,
that open, affectionate, and lively manner which it
was no merit to possess; and by that still ardent love
for Marianne, which it was not even innocent to indulge.
But she felt that it was so, long, long before she could
feel his influence less.
When at last she returned to the unconscious Marianne,
she found her just awaking, refreshed by so long and sweet
a sleep to the extent of her hopes. Elinor's heart was full.
The past, the present, the future, Willoughby's visit,
Marianne's safety, and her mother's expected arrival,
threw her altogether into an agitation of spirits
which kept off every indication of fatigue, and made
her only fearful of betraying herself to her sister.
Short was the time, however, in which that fear could
affect her, for within half an hour after Willoughby's
leaving the house, she was again called down stairs
by the sound of another carriage.--Eager to save her
mother from every unnecessary moment's horrible suspense,
she ran immediately into the hall, and reached the outward
door just in time to receive and support her as she entered it.
Mrs. Dashwood, whose terror as they drew near the
house had produced almost the conviction of Marianne's
being no more, had no voice to inquire after her,
no voice even for Elinor; but SHE, waiting neither for
salutation nor inquiry, instantly gave the joyful relief;--
and her mother, catching it with all her usual warmth,
was in a moment as much overcome by her happiness, as she
had been before by her fears. She was supported into
the drawing-room between her daughter and her friend;--
and there, shedding tears of joy, though still unable
to speak, embraced Elinor again and again, turning from her
at intervals to press Colonel Brandon's hand, with a look
which spoke at once her gratitude, and her conviction
of his sharing with herself in the bliss of the moment.
He shared it, however, in a silence even greater than her own.
As soon as Mrs. Dashwood had recovered herself,
to see Marianne was her first desire; and in two minutes she
was with her beloved child, rendered dearer to her than ever
by absence, unhappiness, and danger. Elinor's delight,
as she saw what each felt in the meeting, was only checked
by an apprehension of its robbing Marianne of farther sleep;--
but Mrs. Dashwood could be calm, could be even prudent,
when the life of a child was at stake, and Marianne,
satisfied in knowing her mother was near her, and conscious
of being too weak for conversation, submitted readily to the
silence and quiet prescribed by every nurse around her.
Mrs. Dashwood WOULD sit up with her all night; and Elinor,
in compliance with her mother's entreaty, went to bed.
But the rest, which one night entirely sleepless,
and many hours of the most wearing anxiety seemed to
make requisite, was kept off by irritation of spirits.
Willoughby, "poor Willoughby," as she now allowed
herself to call him, was constantly in her thoughts; she
would not but have heard his vindication for the world,
and now blamed, now acquitted herself for having judged him
so harshly before. But her promise of relating it to her
sister was invariably painful. She dreaded the performance
of it, dreaded what its effect on Marianne might be;
doubted whether after such an explanation she could ever
be happy with another; and for a moment wished Willoughby
a widower. Then, remembering Colonel Brandon, reproved herself,
felt that to HIS sufferings and his constancy far more
than to his rival's, the reward of her sister was due,
and wished any thing rather than Mrs. Willoughby's death.
The shock of Colonel Brandon's errand at Barton had been
much softened to Mrs. Dashwood by her own previous alarm;
for so great was her uneasiness about Marianne, that she
had already determined to set out for Cleveland on that
very day, without waiting for any further intelligence,
and had so far settled her journey before his arrival,
that the Careys were then expected every moment to fetch
Margaret away, as her mother was unwilling to take her
where there might be infection.
Marianne continued to mend every day, and the brilliant
cheerfulness of Mrs. Dashwood's looks and spirits proved
her to be, as she repeatedly declared herself, one of
the happiest women in the world. Elinor could not hear
the declaration, nor witness its proofs without sometimes
wondering whether her mother ever recollected Edward.
But Mrs. Dashwood, trusting to the temperate account
of her own disappointment which Elinor had sent her,
was led away by the exuberance of her joy to think only
of what would increase it. Marianne was restored to her
from a danger in which, as she now began to feel,
her own mistaken judgment in encouraging the unfortunate
attachment to Willoughby, had contributed to place her;--
and in her recovery she had yet another source of joy
unthought of by Elinor. It was thus imparted to her,
as soon as any opportunity of private conference
between them occurred.
"At last we are alone. My Elinor, you do not yet
know all my happiness. Colonel Brandon loves Marianne.
He has told me so himself."
Her daughter, feeling by turns both pleased and pained,
surprised and not surprised, was all silent attention.
"You are never like me, dear Elinor, or I should
wonder at your composure now. Had I sat down to wish
for any possible good to my family, I should have fixed
on Colonel Brandon's marrying one of you as the object
most desirable. And I believe Marianne will be the most
happy with him of the two."
Elinor was half inclined to ask her reason for thinking so,
because satisfied that none founded on an impartial
consideration of their age, characters, or feelings,
could be given;--but her mother must always be carried
away by her imagination on any interesting subject,
and therefore instead of an inquiry, she passed it off with a
"He opened his whole heart to me yesterday as we travelled.
It came out quite unawares, quite undesignedly. I, you may
well believe, could talk of nothing but my child;--he could
not conceal his distress; I saw that it equalled my own,
and he perhaps, thinking that mere friendship, as the world
now goes, would not justify so warm a sympathy--or rather,
not thinking at all, I suppose--giving way to irresistible
feelings, made me acquainted with his earnest, tender, constant,
affection for Marianne. He has loved her, my Elinor, ever since
the first moment of seeing her."
Here, however, Elinor perceived,--not the language,
not the professions of Colonel Brandon, but the natural
embellishments of her mother's active fancy, which fashioned
every thing delightful to her as it chose.
"His regard for her, infinitely surpassing anything
that Willoughby ever felt or feigned, as much more warm,
as more sincere or constant--which ever we are to call it--
has subsisted through all the knowledge of dear Marianne's
unhappy prepossession for that worthless young man!--and
without selfishness--without encouraging a hope!--could
he have seen her happy with another--Such a noble mind!--
such openness, such sincerity!--no one can be deceived
"Colonel Brandon's character," said Elinor,
"as an excellent man, is well established."
"I know it is"--replied her mother seriously, "or
after such a warning, I should be the last to encourage
such affection, or even to be pleased by it. But his coming
for me as he did, with such active, such ready friendship,
is enough to prove him one of the worthiest of men."
"His character, however," answered Elinor, "does not rest
on ONE act of kindness, to which his affection for Marianne,
were humanity out of the case, would have prompted him.
To Mrs. Jennings, to the Middletons, he has been long
and intimately known; they equally love and respect him;
and even my own knowledge of him, though lately acquired,
is very considerable; and so highly do I value and esteem him,
that if Marianne can be happy with him, I shall be as ready
as yourself to think our connection the greatest blessing
to us in the world. What answer did you give him?--Did you
allow him to hope?"
"Oh! my love, I could not then talk of hope to him
or to myself. Marianne might at that moment be dying.
But he did not ask for hope or encouragement. His was
an involuntary confidence, an irrepressible effusion
to a soothing friend--not an application to a parent.
Yet after a time I DID say, for at first I was quite
overcome--that if she lived, as I trusted she might,
my greatest happiness would lie in promoting their marriage;
and since our arrival, since our delightful security,
I have repeated it to him more fully, have given him every
encouragement in my power. Time, a very little time,
I tell him, will do everything;--Marianne's heart is
not to be wasted for ever on such a man as Willoughby.--
His own merits must soon secure it."
"To judge from the Colonel's spirits, however,
you have not yet made him equally sanguine."
"No.--He thinks Marianne's affection too deeply
rooted for any change in it under a great length of time,
and even supposing her heart again free, is too diffident
of himself to believe, that with such a difference of age
and disposition he could ever attach her. There, however,
he is quite mistaken. His age is only so much beyond
hers as to be an advantage, as to make his character and
principles fixed;--and his disposition, I am well convinced,
is exactly the very one to make your sister happy.
And his person, his manners too, are all in his favour.
My partiality does not blind me; he certainly is not
so handsome as Willoughby--but at the same time,
there is something much more pleasing in his countenance.--
There was always a something,--if you remember,--in Willoughby's
eyes at times, which I did not like."
Elinor could NOT remember it;--but her mother,
without waiting for her assent, continued,
"And his manners, the Colonel's manners are not only
more pleasing to me than Willoughby's ever were, but they
are of a kind I well know to be more solidly attaching
to Marianne. Their gentleness, their genuine attention
to other people, and their manly unstudied simplicity
is much more accordant with her real disposition, than
the liveliness--often artificial, and often ill-timed
of the other. I am very sure myself, that had Willoughby
turned out as really amiable, as he has proved himself
the contrary, Marianne would yet never have been so happy
with HIM, as she will be with Colonel Brandon."
She paused.--Her daughter could not quite agree
with her, but her dissent was not heard, and therefore
gave no offence.
"At Delaford, she will be within an easy distance of me,"
added Mrs. Dashwood, "even if I remain at Barton; and in all
probability,--for I hear it is a large village,--indeed there
certainly MUST be some small house or cottage close by,
that would suit us quite as well as our present situation."
Poor Elinor!--here was a new scheme for getting
her to Delaford!--but her spirit was stubborn.
"His fortune too!--for at my time of life you know,
everybody cares about THAT;--and though I neither know
nor desire to know, what it really is, I am sure it must be
a good one."
Here they were interrupted by the entrance of a
third person, and Elinor withdrew to think it all over
in private, to wish success to her friend, and yet
in wishing it, to feel a pang for Willoughby.
Marianne's illness, though weakening in its kind,
had not been long enough to make her recovery slow;
and with youth, natural strength, and her mother's presence
in aid, it proceeded so smoothly as to enable her to remove,
within four days after the arrival of the latter,
into Mrs. Palmer's dressing-room. When there, at her own
particular request, for she was impatient to pour forth
her thanks to him for fetching her mother, Colonel Brandon
was invited to visit her.
His emotion on entering the room, in seeing her altered
looks, and in receiving the pale hand which she immediately
held out to him, was such, as, in Elinor's conjecture,
must arise from something more than his affection for Marianne,
or the consciousness of its being known to others;
and she soon discovered in his melancholy eye and varying
complexion as he looked at her sister, the probable
recurrence of many past scenes of misery to his mind,
brought back by that resemblance between Marianne and Eliza
already acknowledged, and now strengthened by the hollow eye,
the sickly skin, the posture of reclining weakness,
and the warm acknowledgment of peculiar obligation.
Mrs. Dashwood, not less watchful of what passed than
her daughter, but with a mind very differently influenced,
and therefore watching to very different effect,
saw nothing in the Colonel's behaviour but what arose
from the most simple and self-evident sensations, while in
the actions and words of Marianne she persuaded herself
to think that something more than gratitude already dawned.
At the end of another day or two, Marianne growing
visibly stronger every twelve hours, Mrs. Dashwood,
urged equally by her own and her daughter's wishes,
began to talk of removing to Barton. On HER measures
depended those of her two friends; Mrs. Jennings could
not quit Cleveland during the Dashwoods' stay; and Colonel
Brandon was soon brought, by their united request,
to consider his own abode there as equally determinate,
if not equally indispensable. At his and Mrs. Jennings's
united request in return, Mrs. Dashwood was prevailed
on to accept the use of his carriage on her journey back,
for the better accommodation of her sick child; and the Colonel,
at the joint invitation of Mrs. Dashwood and Mrs. Jennings,
whose active good-nature made her friendly and hospitable
for other people as well as herself, engaged with pleasure
to redeem it by a visit at the cottage, in the course
of a few weeks.
The day of separation and departure arrived;
and Marianne, after taking so particular and lengthened
a leave of Mrs. Jennings, one so earnestly grateful, so full
of respect and kind wishes as seemed due to her own heart
from a secret acknowledgment of past inattention, and bidding
Colonel Brandon farewell with a cordiality of a friend,
was carefully assisted by him into the carriage, of which he
seemed anxious that she should engross at least half.
Mrs. Dashwood and Elinor then followed, and the others
were left by themselves, to talk of the travellers,
and feel their own dullness, till Mrs. Jennings was summoned
to her chaise to take comfort in the gossip of her maid
for the loss of her two young companions; and Colonel Brandon
immediately afterwards took his solitary way to Delaford.
The Dashwoods were two days on the road, and Marianne
bore her journey on both, without essential fatigue.
Every thing that the most zealous affection, the most
solicitous care could do to render her comfortable,
was the office of each watchful companion, and each
found their reward in her bodily ease, and her calmness
of spirits. To Elinor, the observation of the latter
was particularly grateful. She, who had seen her week
after week so constantly suffering, oppressed by anguish
of heart which she had neither courage to speak of,
nor fortitude to conceal, now saw with a joy, which no other
could equally share, an apparent composure of mind, which,
in being the result as she trusted of serious reflection,
must eventually lead her to contentment and cheerfulness.
As they approached Barton, indeed, and entered
on scenes of which every field and every tree brought
some peculiar, some painful recollection, she grew silent
and thoughtful, and turning away her face from their notice,
sat earnestly gazing through the window. But here,
Elinor could neither wonder nor blame; and when she saw,
as she assisted Marianne from the carriage, that she
had been crying, she saw only an emotion too natural
in itself to raise any thing less tender than pity,
and in its unobtrusiveness entitled to praise. In the
whole of her subsequent manner, she traced the direction
of a mind awakened to reasonable exertion; for no sooner
had they entered their common sitting-room, than Marianne
turned her eyes around it with a look of resolute firmness,
as if determined at once to accustom herself to the sight
of every object with which the remembrance of Willoughby could
be connected.--She said little, but every sentence aimed
at cheerfulness, and though a sigh sometimes escaped her,
it never passed away without the atonement of a smile.
After dinner she would try her piano-forte. She went to it;
but the music on which her eye first rested was an opera,
procured for her by Willoughby, containing some of their
favourite duets, and bearing on its outward leaf her own name
in his hand-writing.--That would not do.--She shook her head,
put the music aside, and after running over the keys
for a minute, complained of feebleness in her fingers,
and closed the instrument again; declaring however with firmness
as she did so, that she should in future practice much.
The next morning produced no abatement in these
happy symptoms. On the contrary, with a mind and body
alike strengthened by rest, she looked and spoke with
more genuine spirit, anticipating the pleasure of
Margaret's return, and talking of the dear family party
which would then be restored, of their mutual pursuits
and cheerful society, as the only happiness worth a wish.
"When the weather is settled, and I have recovered
my strength," said she, "we will take long walks together
every day. We will walk to the farm at the edge of the down,
and see how the children go on; we will walk to Sir John's
new plantations at Barton Cross, and the Abbeyland;
and we will often go the old ruins of the Priory,
and try to trace its foundations as far as we are told
they once reached. I know we shall be happy. I know
the summer will pass happily away. I mean never to be
later in rising than six, and from that time till dinner
I shall divide every moment between music and reading.
I have formed my plan, and am determined to enter on a course
of serious study. Our own library is too well known to me,
to be resorted to for any thing beyond mere amusement.
But there are many works well worth reading at the Park;
and there are others of more modern production which I
know I can borrow of Colonel Brandon. By reading only six
hours a-day, I shall gain in the course of a twelve-month
a great deal of instruction which I now feel myself to want."
Elinor honoured her for a plan which originated
so nobly as this; though smiling to see the same eager
fancy which had been leading her to the extreme of languid
indolence and selfish repining, now at work in introducing
excess into a scheme of such rational employment and virtuous
self-control. Her smile however changed to a sigh when she
remembered that promise to Willoughby was yet unfulfilled,
and feared she had that to communicate which might again
unsettle the mind of Marianne, and ruin at least for a time
this fair prospect of busy tranquillity. Willing therefore
to delay the evil hour, she resolved to wait till her
sister's health were more secure, before she appointed it.
But the resolution was made only to be broken.
Marianne had been two or three days at home, before
the weather was fine enough for an invalid like herself
to venture out. But at last a soft, genial morning appeared;
such as might tempt the daughter's wishes and the
mother's confidence; and Marianne, leaning on Elinor's arm,
was authorised to walk as long as she could without fatigue,
in the lane before the house.
The sisters set out at a pace, slow as the feebleness
of Marianne in an exercise hitherto untried since her
illness required;--and they had advanced only so far
beyond the house as to admit a full view of the hill,
the important hill behind, when pausing with her eyes
turned towards it, Marianne calmly said,
"There, exactly there,"--pointing with one hand,
"on that projecting mound,--there I fell; and there
I first saw Willoughby."
Her voice sunk with the word, but presently reviving she added,
"I am thankful to find that I can look with so little pain
on the spot!--shall we ever talk on that subject, Elinor?"--
hesitatingly it was said.--"Or will it be wrong?--I can talk
of it now, I hope, as I ought to do."--
Elinor tenderly invited her to be open.
"As for regret," said Marianne, "I have done with that,
as far as HE is concerned. I do not mean to talk to you
of what my feelings have been for him, but what they
are NOW.--At present, if I could be satisfied on one point,
if I could be allowed to think that he was not ALWAYS
acting a part, not ALWAYS deceiving me;--but above all,
if I could be assured that he never was so VERY wicked
as my fears have sometimes fancied him, since the story
of that unfortunate girl"--
She stopt. Elinor joyfully treasured her words
as she answered,
"If you could be assured of that, you think you
should be easy."
"Yes. My peace of mind is doubly involved in it;--
for not only is it horrible to suspect a person, who has
been what HE has been to ME, of such designs,--but what must
it make me appear to myself?--What in a situation like mine,
but a most shamefully unguarded affection could expose
"How then," asked her sister, "would you account
for his behaviour?"
"I would suppose him,--Oh, how gladly would I suppose him,
only fickle, very, very fickle."
Elinor said no more. She was debating within herself
on the eligibility of beginning her story directly,
or postponing it till Marianne were in stronger health;--
and they crept on for a few minutes in silence.
"I am not wishing him too much good," said Marianne
at last with a sigh, "when I wish his secret reflections
may be no more unpleasant than my own. He will suffer
enough in them."
"Do you compare your conduct with his?"
"No. I compare it with what it ought to have been;
I compare it with yours."
"Our situations have borne little resemblance."
"They have borne more than our conduct.--Do not,
my dearest Elinor, let your kindness defend what I know
your judgment must censure. My illness has made me think--
It has given me leisure and calmness for serious recollection.
Long before I was enough recovered to talk, I was perfectly
able to reflect. I considered the past: I saw in my
own behaviour, since the beginning of our acquaintance
with him last autumn, nothing but a series of imprudence
towards myself, and want of kindness to others.
I saw that my own feelings had prepared my sufferings,
and that my want of fortitude under them had almost led
me to the grave. My illness, I well knew, had been
entirely brought on by myself by such negligence of my
own health, as I had felt even at the time to be wrong.
Had I died,--it would have been self-destruction. I
did not know my danger till the danger was removed;
but with such feelings as these reflections gave me,
I wonder at my recovery,--wonder that the very eagerness
of my desire to live, to have time for atonement to my God,
and to you all, did not kill me at once. Had I died,--
in what peculiar misery should I have left you, my nurse,
my friend, my sister!--You, who had seen all the fretful
selfishness of my latter days; who had known all the
murmurings of my heart!--How should I have lived in YOUR
remembrance!--My mother too! How could you have consoled
her!--I cannot express my own abhorrence of myself.
Whenever I looked towards the past, I saw some duty neglected,
or some failing indulged. Every body seemed injured by me.
The kindness, the unceasing kindness of Mrs. Jennings,
I had repaid with ungrateful contempt. To the Middletons,
to the Palmers, the Steeles, to every common acquaintance even,
I had been insolent and unjust; with a heart hardened
against their merits, and a temper irritated by their
very attention.--To John, to Fanny,--yes, even to them,
little as they deserve, I had given less than their due.
But you,--you above all, above my mother, had been wronged
by me. I, and only I, knew your heart and its sorrows;
yet to what did it influence me?--not to any compassion
that could benefit you or myself.--Your example was
before me; but to what avail?--Was I more considerate
of you and your comfort? Did I imitate your forbearance,
or lessen your restraints, by taking any part in those
offices of general complaisance or particular gratitude
which you had hitherto been left to discharge alone?--No;--
not less when I knew you to be unhappy, than when I
had believed you at ease, did I turn away from every
exertion of duty or friendship; scarcely allowing sorrow
to exist but with me, regretting only THAT heart
which had deserted and wronged me, and leaving you,
for or I professed an unbounded affection, to be miserable
for my sake."
Here ceased the rapid flow of her self-reproving spirit;
and Elinor, impatient to soothe, though too honest
to flatter, gave her instantly that praise and support
which her frankness and her contrition so well deserved.
Marianne pressed her hand and replied,
"You are very good.--The future must be my proof.
I have laid down my plan, and if I am capable of adhering
to it--my feelings shall be governed and my temper improved.
They shall no longer worry others, nor torture myself.
I shall now live solely for my family. You, my mother,
and Margaret, must henceforth be all the world to me;
you will share my affections entirely between you.
From you, from my home, I shall never again have the smallest
incitement to move; and if I do mix in other society,
it will be only to shew that my spirit is humbled,
my heart amended, and that I can practise the civilities,
the lesser duties of life, with gentleness and forbearance.
As for Willoughby--to say that I shall soon or that I shall
ever forget him, would be idle. His remembrance can be overcome
by no change of circumstances or opinions. But it shall
be regulated, it shall be checked by religion, by reason,
by constant employment."
She paused--and added in a low voice, "If I could
but know HIS heart, everything would become easy."
Elinor, who had now been for some time reflecting
on the propriety or impropriety of speedily hazarding
her narration, without feeling at all nearer decision than
at first, heard this; and perceiving that as reflection
did nothing, resolution must do all, soon found herself
leading to the fact.
She managed the recital, as she hoped, with address;
prepared her anxious listener with caution; related simply
and honestly the chief points on which Willoughby
grounded his apology; did justice to his repentance,
and softened only his protestations of present regard.
Marianne said not a word.--She trembled, her eyes
were fixed on the ground, and her lips became whiter
than even sickness had left them. A thousand inquiries
sprung up from her heart, but she dared not urge one.
She caught every syllable with panting eagerness; her hand,
unknowingly to herself, closely pressed her sister's, and
tears covered her cheeks.
Elinor, dreading her being tired, led her towards home;
and till they reached the door of the cottage,
easily conjecturing what her curiosity must be
though no question was suffered to speak it, talked of
nothing but Willoughby, and their conversation together;
and was carefully minute in every particular of speech
and look, where minuteness could be safely indulged.
As soon as they entered the house, Marianne with a kiss
of gratitude and these two words just articulate through
her tears, "Tell mama," withdrew from her sister and
walked slowly up stairs. Elinor would not attempt
to disturb a solitude so reasonable as what she now sought;
and with a mind anxiously pre-arranging its result,
and a resolution of reviving the subject again,
should Marianne fail to do it, she turned into the parlour
to fulfill her parting injunction.
Mrs. Dashwood did not hear unmoved the vindication
of her former favourite. She rejoiced in his being
cleared from some part of his imputed guilt;--she was
sorry for him;--she wished him happy. But the feelings
of the past could not be recalled.--Nothing could restore
him with a faith unbroken--a character unblemished,
to Marianne. Nothing could do away the knowledge
of what the latter had suffered through his means,
nor remove the guilt of his conduct towards Eliza.
Nothing could replace him, therefore, in her former esteem,
nor injure the interests of Colonel Brandon.
Had Mrs. Dashwood, like her daughter, heard Willoughby's
story from himself--had she witnessed his distress,
and been under the influence of his countenance and his
manner, it is probable that her compassion would have
been greater. But it was neither in Elinor's power,
nor in her wish, to rouse such feelings in another, by her
retailed explanation, as had at first been called forth
in herself. Reflection had given calmness to her judgment,
and sobered her own opinion of Willoughby's deserts;--
she wished, therefore, to declare only the simple truth,
and lay open such facts as were really due to his character,
without any embellishment of tenderness to lead the
In the evening, when they were all three together,
Marianne began voluntarily to speak of him again;--
but that it was not without an effort, the restless,
unquiet thoughtfulness in which she had been for some time
previously sitting--her rising colour, as she spoke,--
and her unsteady voice, plainly shewed.
"I wish to assure you both," said she, "that I see
every thing--as you can desire me to do."
Mrs. Dashwood would have interrupted her instantly
with soothing tenderness, had not Elinor, who really wished
to hear her sister's unbiased opinion, by an eager sign,
engaged her silence. Marianne slowly continued--
"It is a great relief to me--what Elinor told
me this morning--I have now heard exactly what I
wished to hear."--For some moments her voice was lost;
but recovering herself, she added, and with greater
calmness than before--"I am now perfectly satisfied,
I wish for no change. I never could have been happy
with him, after knowing, as sooner or later I must
have known, all this.--I should have had no confidence,
no esteem. Nothing could have done it away to my feelings."
"I know it--I know it," cried her mother.
"Happy with a man of libertine practices!--With one
who so injured the peace of the dearest of our friends,
and the best of men!--No--my Marianne has not a heart
to be made happy with such a man!--Her conscience, her
sensitive conscience, would have felt all that the
conscience of her husband ought to have felt."
Marianne sighed, and repeated, "I wish for no change."
"You consider the matter," said Elinor, "exactly as
a good mind and a sound understanding must consider it;
and I dare say you perceive, as well as myself, not only
in this, but in many other circumstances, reason enough
to be convinced that your marriage must have involved you
in many certain troubles and disappointments, in which
you would have been poorly supported by an affection,
on his side, much less certain. Had you married,
you must have been always poor. His expensiveness is
acknowledged even by himself, and his whole conduct declares
that self-denial is a word hardly understood by him.
His demands and your inexperience together, on a small,
very small income, must have brought on distresses which
would not be the LESS grievous to you, from having been
entirely unknown and unthought of before. YOUR sense
of honour and honesty would have led you, I know,
when aware of your situation, to attempt all the economy
that would appear to you possible: and, perhaps, as long
as your frugality retrenched only on your own comfort,
you might have been suffered to practice it, but beyond that--
and how little could the utmost of your single management
do to stop the ruin which had begun before your marriage?--
Beyond THAT, had you endeavoured, however reasonably,
to abridge HIS enjoyments, is it not to be feared, that instead
of prevailing on feelings so selfish to consent to it,
you would have lessened your own influence on his heart,
and made him regret the connection which had involved him
in such difficulties?"
Marianne's lips quivered, and she repeated the word
"Selfish?" in a tone that implied--"do you really think
"The whole of his behaviour," replied Elinor,
"from the beginning to the end of the affair, has been
grounded on selfishness. It was selfishness which first
made him sport with your affections; which afterwards,
when his own were engaged, made him delay the confession
of it, and which finally carried him from Barton.
His own enjoyment, or his own ease, was, in every particular,
his ruling principle."
"It is very true. MY happiness never was his object."
"At present," continued Elinor, "he regrets what he
has done. And why does he regret it?--Because he finds
it has not answered towards himself. It has not made
him happy. His circumstances are now unembarrassed--he
suffers from no evil of that kind; and he thinks only
that he has married a woman of a less amiable temper
than yourself. But does it follow that had he married you,
he would have been happy?--The inconveniences would have
been different. He would then have suffered under the
pecuniary distresses which, because they are removed,
he now reckons as nothing. He would have had a wife
of whose temper he could make no complaint, but he would
have been always necessitous--always poor; and probably
would soon have learned to rank the innumerable comforts
of a clear estate and good income as of far more importance,
even to domestic happiness, than the mere temper of a wife."
"I have not a doubt of it," said Marianne; "and I
have nothing to regret--nothing but my own folly."
"Rather say your mother's imprudence, my child,"
said Mrs. Dashwood; "SHE must be answerable."
Marianne would not let her proceed;--and Elinor,
satisfied that each felt their own error, wished to avoid
any survey of the past that might weaken her sister's
spirits; she, therefore, pursuing the first subject,
"One observation may, I think, be fairly drawn from
the whole of the story--that all Willoughby's difficulties
have arisen from the first offence against virtue, in his
behaviour to Eliza Williams. That crime has been the origin
of every lesser one, and of all his present discontents."
Marianne assented most feelingly to the remark;
and her mother was led by it to an enumeration of Colonel
Brandon's injuries and merits, warm as friendship
and design could unitedly dictate. Her daughter did
not look, however, as if much of it were heard by her.
Elinor, according to her expectation, saw on the two
or three following days, that Marianne did not continue
to gain strength as she had done; but while her resolution
was unsubdued, and she still tried to appear cheerful
and easy, her sister could safely trust to the effect
of time upon her health.
Margaret returned, and the family were again all
restored to each other, again quietly settled at the cottage;
and if not pursuing their usual studies with quite
so much vigour as when they first came to Barton,
at least planning a vigorous prosecution of them in future.
Elinor grew impatient for some tidings of Edward.
She had heard nothing of him since her leaving London,
nothing new of his plans, nothing certain even of his
present abode. Some letters had passed between her
and her brother, in consequence of Marianne's illness;
and in the first of John's, there had been this sentence:--
"We know nothing of our unfortunate Edward, and can make no
enquiries on so prohibited a subject, but conclude him
to be still at Oxford;" which was all the intelligence
of Edward afforded her by the correspondence, for his name
was not even mentioned in any of the succeeding letters.
She was not doomed, however, to be long in ignorance of
Their man-servant had been sent one morning to Exeter
on business; and when, as he waited at table, he had
satisfied the inquiries of his mistress as to the event
of his errand, this was his voluntary communication--
"I suppose you know, ma'am, that Mr. Ferrars is married."
Marianne gave a violent start, fixed her eyes
upon Elinor, saw her turning pale, and fell back in her
chair in hysterics. Mrs. Dashwood, whose eyes, as she
answered the servant's inquiry, had intuitively taken
the same direction, was shocked to perceive by Elinor's
countenance how much she really suffered, and a moment
afterwards, alike distressed by Marianne's situation,
knew not on which child to bestow her principal attention.
The servant, who saw only that Miss Marianne was
taken ill, had sense enough to call one of the maids,
who, with Mrs. Dashwood's assistance, supported her into
the other room. By that time, Marianne was rather better,
and her mother leaving her to the care of Margaret
and the maid, returned to Elinor, who, though still
much disordered, had so far recovered the use of her reason
and voice as to be just beginning an inquiry of Thomas,
as to the source of his intelligence. Mrs. Dashwood
immediately took all that trouble on herself; and Elinor
had the benefit of the information without the exertion
of seeking it.
"Who told you that Mr. Ferrars was married, Thomas?"
"I see Mr. Ferrars myself, ma'am, this morning
in Exeter, and his lady too, Miss Steele as was. They was
stopping in a chaise at the door of the New London Inn,
as I went there with a message from Sally at the Park
to her brother, who is one of the post-boys. I happened
to look up as I went by the chaise, and so I see directly
it was the youngest Miss Steele; so I took off my hat,
and she knew me and called to me, and inquired after you,
ma'am, and the young ladies, especially Miss Marianne,
and bid me I should give her compliments and Mr. Ferrars's,
their best compliments and service, and how sorry they
was they had not time to come on and see you, but they was
in a great hurry to go forwards, for they was going further
down for a little while, but howsever, when they come back,
they'd make sure to come and see you."
"But did she tell you she was married, Thomas?"
"Yes, ma'am. She smiled, and said how she
had changed her name since she was in these parts.
She was always a very affable and free-spoken young lady,
and very civil behaved. So, I made free to wish her joy."
"Was Mr. Ferrars in the carriage with her?"
"Yes, ma'am, I just see him leaning back in it,
but he did not look up;--he never was a gentleman much
Elinor's heart could easily account for his not
putting himself forward; and Mrs. Dashwood probably
found the same explanation.
"Was there no one else in the carriage?"
"No, ma'am, only they two."
"Do you know where they came from?"
"They come straight from town, as Miss Lucy--
Mrs. Ferrars told me."
"And are they going farther westward?"
"Yes, ma'am--but not to bide long. They will soon
be back again, and then they'd be sure and call here."
Mrs. Dashwood now looked at her daughter;
but Elinor knew better than to expect them.
She recognised the whole of Lucy in the message, and was
very confident that Edward would never come near them.
She observed in a low voice, to her mother, that they
were probably going down to Mr. Pratt's, near Plymouth.
Thomas's intelligence seemed over. Elinor looked
as if she wished to hear more.
"Did you see them off, before you came away?"
"No, ma'am--the horses were just coming out, but I
could not bide any longer; I was afraid of being late."
"Did Mrs. Ferrars look well?"
"Yes, ma'am, she said how she was very well;
and to my mind she was always a very handsome young
lady--and she seemed vastly contented."
Mrs. Dashwood could think of no other question,
and Thomas and the tablecloth, now alike needless,
were soon afterwards dismissed. Marianne had already sent
to say, that she should eat nothing more. Mrs. Dashwood's
and Elinor's appetites were equally lost, and Margaret
might think herself very well off, that with so much
uneasiness as both her sisters had lately experienced,
so much reason as they had often had to be careless
of their meals, she had never been obliged to go without
her dinner before.
When the dessert and the wine were arranged,
and Mrs. Dashwood and Elinor were left by themselves,
they remained long together in a similarity of thoughtfulness
and silence. Mrs. Dashwood feared to hazard any remark,
and ventured not to offer consolation. She now found
that she had erred in relying on Elinor's representation
of herself; and justly concluded that every thing
had been expressly softened at the time, to spare her
from an increase of unhappiness, suffering as she then
had suffered for Marianne. She found that she had been
misled by the careful, the considerate attention of
her daughter, to think the attachment, which once she
had so well understood, much slighter in reality, than
she had been wont to believe, or than it was now proved
to be. She feared that under this persuasion she had
been unjust, inattentive, nay, almost unkind, to her Elinor;--
that Marianne's affliction, because more acknowledged,
more immediately before her, had too much engrossed
her tenderness, and led her away to forget that in Elinor
she might have a daughter suffering almost as much,
certainly with less self-provocation, and greater fortitude.
Elinor now found the difference between the expectation
of an unpleasant event, however certain the mind may be told
to consider it, and certainty itself. She now found, that
in spite of herself, she had always admitted a hope,
while Edward remained single, that something would occur
to prevent his marrying Lucy; that some resolution of
his own, some mediation of friends, or some more eligible
opportunity of establishment for the lady, would arise
to assist the happiness of all. But he was now married;
and she condemned her heart for the lurking flattery,
which so much heightened the pain of the intelligence.
That he should be married soon, before (as she imagined)
he could be in orders, and consequently before he could
be in possession of the living, surprised her a little
at first. But she soon saw how likely it was that Lucy,
in her self-provident care, in her haste to secure him,
should overlook every thing but the risk of delay.
They were married, married in town, and now hastening
down to her uncle's. What had Edward felt on being within
four miles from Barton, on seeing her mother's servant,
on hearing Lucy's message!
They would soon, she supposed, be settled at
Delaford.--Delaford,--that place in which so much
conspired to give her an interest; which she wished
to be acquainted with, and yet desired to avoid.
She saw them in an instant in their parsonage-house; saw
in Lucy, the active, contriving manager, uniting at once
a desire of smart appearance with the utmost frugality,
and ashamed to be suspected of half her economical practices;--
pursuing her own interest in every thought, courting the
favour of Colonel Brandon, of Mrs. Jennings, and of every
wealthy friend. In Edward--she knew not what she saw,
nor what she wished to see;--happy or unhappy,--nothing
pleased her; she turned away her head from every sketch of him.
Elinor flattered herself that some one of their
connections in London would write to them to announce
the event, and give farther particulars,--but day after
day passed off, and brought no letter, no tidings.
Though uncertain that any one were to blame, she found
fault with every absent friend. They were all thoughtless
"When do you write to Colonel Brandon, ma'am?"
was an inquiry which sprung from the impatience
of her mind to have something going on.
"I wrote to him, my love, last week, and rather
expect to see, than to hear from him again. I earnestly
pressed his coming to us, and should not be surprised
to see him walk in today or tomorrow, or any day."
This was gaining something, something to look forward to.
Colonel Brandon must have some information to give.
Scarcely had she so determined it, when the figure
of a man on horseback drew her eyes to the window.
He stopt at their gate. It was a gentleman, it
was Colonel Brandon himself. Now she could hear more;
and she trembled in expectation of it. But--it was
NOT Colonel Brandon--neither his air--nor his height.
Were it possible, she must say it must be Edward.
She looked again. He had just dismounted;--she could not be
mistaken,--it WAS Edward. She moved away and sat down.
"He comes from Mr. Pratt's purposely to see us. I WILL be
calm; I WILL be mistress of myself."
In a moment she perceived that the others were likewise
aware of the mistake. She saw her mother and Marianne
change colour; saw them look at herself, and whisper
a few sentences to each other. She would have given
the world to be able to speak--and to make them understand
that she hoped no coolness, no slight, would appear
in their behaviour to him;--but she had no utterance,
and was obliged to leave all to their own discretion.
Not a syllable passed aloud. They all waited
in silence for the appearance of their visitor.
His footsteps were heard along the gravel path; in a moment
he was in the passage, and in another he was before them.
His countenance, as he entered the room, was not
too happy, even for Elinor. His complexion was white
with agitation, and he looked as if fearful of his
reception, and conscious that he merited no kind one.
Mrs. Dashwood, however, conforming, as she trusted,
to the wishes of that daughter, by whom she then meant
in the warmth of her heart to be guided in every thing,
met with a look of forced complacency, gave him her hand,
and wished him joy.
He coloured, and stammered out an unintelligible reply.
Elinor's lips had moved with her mother's, and, when the
moment of action was over, she wished that she had shaken
hands with him too. But it was then too late, and with a
countenance meaning to be open, she sat down again
and talked of the weather.
Marianne had retreated as much as possible
out of sight, to conceal her distress; and Margaret,
understanding some part, but not the whole of the case,
thought it incumbent on her to be dignified, and therefore
took a seat as far from him as she could, and maintained
a strict silence.
When Elinor had ceased to rejoice in the dryness
of the season, a very awful pause took place. It was put
an end to by Mrs. Dashwood, who felt obliged to hope that he
had left Mrs. Ferrars very well. In a hurried manner,
he replied in the affirmative.
Elinor resolving to exert herself, though fearing
the sound of her own voice, now said,
"Is Mrs. Ferrars at Longstaple?"
"At Longstaple!" he replied, with an air of surprise.--
"No, my mother is in town."
"I meant," said Elinor, taking up some work from
the table, "to inquire for Mrs. EDWARD Ferrars."
She dared not look up;--but her mother and Marianne both
turned their eyes on him. He coloured, seemed perplexed,
looked doubtingly, and, after some hesitation, said,--
"Perhaps you mean--my brother--you mean Mrs.--Mrs.
"Mrs. Robert Ferrars!"--was repeated by Marianne and her
mother in an accent of the utmost amazement;--and though
Elinor could not speak, even HER eyes were fixed on him
with the same impatient wonder. He rose from his seat,
and walked to the window, apparently from not knowing
what to do; took up a pair of scissors that lay there,
and while spoiling both them and their sheath by cutting
the latter to pieces as he spoke, said, in a hurried voice,
"Perhaps you do not know--you may not have heard
that my brother is lately married to--to the youngest--to
Miss Lucy Steele."
His words were echoed with unspeakable astonishment
by all but Elinor, who sat with her head leaning over
her work, in a state of such agitation as made her hardly
know where she was.
"Yes," said he, "they were married last week,
and are now at Dawlish."
Elinor could sit it no longer. She almost ran
out of the room, and as soon as the door was closed,
burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would