Here Mrs. Jennings ceased, and as Elinor had had time enough to collect her thoughts, she was able to give such an answer, and make such observations, as the subject might naturally be supposed to produce. Happy to find that she was not suspected of any extraordinary interest in it; that Mrs. Jennings (as she had of late often hoped might be the case) had ceased to imagine her at all attached to Edward; and happy above all the rest, in the absence of Marianne, she felt very well able to speak of the affair without embarrassment, and to give her judgment, as she believed, with impartiality on the conduct of every one concerned in it.
She could hardly determine what her own expectation of its event really was; though she earnestly tried to drive away the notion of its being possible to end otherwise at last, than in the marriage of Edward and Lucy. What Mrs. Ferrars would say and do, though there could not be a doubt of its nature, she was anxious to hear; and still more anxious to know how Edward would conduct himself. For HIM she felt much compassion;– for Lucy very little–and it cost her some pains to procure that little;–for the rest of the party none at all.
As Mrs. Jennings could talk on no other subject, Elinor soon saw the necessity of preparing Marianne for its discussion. No time was to be lost in undeceiving her, in making her acquainted with the real truth, and in endeavouring to bring her to hear it talked of by others, without betraying that she felt any uneasiness for her sister, or any resentment against Edward.
Elinor’s office was a painful one.–She was going to remove what she really believed to be her sister’s chief consolation,–to give such particulars of Edward as she feared would ruin him for ever in her good opinion,-and to make Marianne, by a resemblance in their situations, which to HER fancy would seem strong, feel all her own disappointment over again. But unwelcome as such a task must be, it was necessary to be done, and Elinor therefore hastened to perform it.
She was very far from wishing to dwell on her own feelings, or to represent herself as suffering much, any otherwise than as the self-command she had practised since her first knowledge of Edward’s engagement, might suggest a hint of what was practicable to Marianne. Her narration was clear and simple; and though it could not be given without emotion, it was not accompanied by violent agitation, nor impetuous grief.–THAT belonged rather to the hearer, for Marianne listened with horror, and cried excessively. Elinor was to be the comforter of others in her own distresses, no less than in theirs; and all the comfort that could be given by assurances of her own composure of mind, and a very earnest vindication of Edward from every charge but of imprudence, was readily offered.
But Marianne for some time would give credit to neither. Edward seemed a second Willoughby; and acknowledging as Elinor did, that she HAD loved him most sincerely, could she feel less than herself! As for Lucy Steele, she considered her so totally unamiable, so absolutely incapable of attaching a sensible man, that she could not be persuaded at first to believe, and afterwards to pardon, any former affection of Edward for her. She would not even admit it to have been natural; and Elinor left her to be convinced that it was so, by that which only could convince her, a better knowledge of mankind.
Her first communication had reached no farther than to state the fact of the engagement, and the length of time it had existed.–Marianne’s feelings had then broken in, and put an end to all regularity of detail; and for some time all that could be done was to soothe her distress, lessen her alarms, and combat her resentment. The first question on her side, which led to farther particulars, was,
“How long has this been known to you, Elinor? has he written to you?”
“I have known it these four months. When Lucy first came to Barton Park last November, she told me in confidence of her engagement.”
At these words, Marianne’s eyes expressed the astonishment which her lips could not utter. After a pause of wonder, she exclaimed–
“Four months!–Have you known of this four months?”
Elinor confirmed it.
“What!–while attending me in all my misery, has this been on your heart?–And I have reproached you for being happy!”–
“It was not fit that you should then know how much I was the reverse!”
“Four months!”–cried Marianne again.–“So calm!– so cheerful!–how have you been supported?”–
“By feeling that I was doing my duty.–My promise to Lucy, obliged me to be secret. I owed it to her, therefore, to avoid giving any hint of the truth; and I owed it to my family and friends, not to create in them a solicitude about me, which it could not be in my power to satisfy.”
Marianne seemed much struck.
“I have very often wished to undeceive yourself and my mother,” added Elinor; “and once or twice I have attempted it;– but without betraying my trust, I never could have convinced you.”
“Four months!–and yet you loved him!”–
“Yes. But I did not love only him;–and while the comfort of others was dear to me, I was glad to spare them from knowing how much I felt. Now, I can think and speak of it with little emotion. I would not have you suffer on my account; for I assure you I no longer suffer materially myself. I have many things to support me. I am not conscious of having provoked the disappointment by any imprudence of my own, I have borne it as much as possible without spreading it farther. I acquit Edward of essential misconduct. I wish him very happy; and I am so sure of his always doing his duty, that though now he may harbour some regret, in the end he must become so. Lucy does not want sense, and that is the foundation on which every thing good may be built.–And after all, Marianne, after all that is bewitching in the idea of a single and constant attachment, and all that can be said of one’s happiness depending entirely on any particular person, it is not meant–it is not fit–it is not possible that it should be so.– Edward will marry Lucy; he will marry a woman superior in person and understanding to half her sex; and time and habit will teach him to forget that he ever thought another superior to HER.”–
“If such is your way of thinking,” said Marianne, “if the loss of what is most valued is so easily to be made up by something else, your resolution, your self-command, are, perhaps, a little less to be wondered at.–They are brought more within my comprehension.”
“I understand you.–You do not suppose that I have ever felt much.–For four months, Marianne, I have had all this hanging on my mind, without being at liberty to speak of it to a single creature; knowing that it would make you and my mother most unhappy whenever it were explained to you, yet unable to prepare you for it in the least.– It was told me,–it was in a manner forced on me by the very person herself, whose prior engagement ruined all my prospects; and told me, as I thought, with triumph.– This person’s suspicions, therefore, I have had to oppose, by endeavouring to appear indifferent where I have been most deeply interested;–and it has not been only once;–I have had her hopes and exultation to listen to again and again.– I have known myself to be divided from Edward for ever, without hearing one circumstance that could make me less desire the connection.–Nothing has proved him unworthy; nor has anything declared him indifferent to me.– I have had to contend against the unkindness of his sister, and the insolence of his mother; and have suffered the punishment of an attachment, without enjoying its advantages.– And all this has been going on at a time, when, as you know too well, it has not been my only unhappiness.– If you can think me capable of ever feeling–surely you may suppose that I have suffered NOW. The composure of mind with which I have brought myself at present to consider the matter, the consolation that I have been willing to admit, have been the effect of constant and painful exertion;–they did not spring up of themselves;– they did not occur to relieve my spirits at first.– No, Marianne.–THEN, if I had not been bound to silence, perhaps nothing could have kept me entirely–not even what I owed to my dearest friends–from openly shewing that I was VERY unhappy.”–
Marianne was quite subdued.–
“Oh! Elinor,” she cried, “you have made me hate myself for ever.–How barbarous have I been to you!– you, who have been my only comfort, who have borne with me in all my misery, who have seemed to be only suffering for me!–Is this my gratitude?–Is this the only return I can make you?–Because your merit cries out upon myself, I have been trying to do it away.”
The tenderest caresses followed this confession. In such a frame of mind as she was now in, Elinor had no difficulty in obtaining from her whatever promise she required; and at her request, Marianne engaged never to speak of the affair to any one with the least appearance of bitterness;–to meet Lucy without betraying the smallest increase of dislike to her;–and even to see Edward himself, if chance should bring them together, without any diminution of her usual cordiality.– These were great concessions;–but where Marianne felt that she had injured, no reparation could be too much for her to make.
She performed her promise of being discreet, to admiration.–She attended to all that Mrs. Jennings had to say upon the subject, with an unchanging complexion, dissented from her in nothing, and was heard three times to say, “Yes, ma’am.”–She listened to her praise of Lucy with only moving from one chair to another, and when Mrs. Jennings talked of Edward’s affection, it cost her only a spasm in her throat.–Such advances towards heroism in her sister, made Elinor feel equal to any thing herself.
The next morning brought a farther trial of it, in a visit from their brother, who came with a most serious aspect to talk over the dreadful affair, and bring them news of his wife.
“You have heard, I suppose,” said he with great solemnity, as soon as he was seated, “of the very shocking discovery that took place under our roof yesterday.”
They all looked their assent; it seemed too awful a moment for speech.
“Your sister,” he continued, “has suffered dreadfully. Mrs. Ferrars too–in short it has been a scene of such complicated distress–but I will hope that the storm may be weathered without our being any of us quite overcome. Poor Fanny! she was in hysterics all yesterday. But I would not alarm you too much. Donavan says there is nothing materially to be apprehended; her constitution is a good one, and her resolution equal to any thing. She has borne it all, with the fortitude of an angel! She says she never shall think well of anybody again; and one cannot wonder at it, after being so deceived!– meeting with such ingratitude, where so much kindness had been shewn, so much confidence had been placed! It was quite out of the benevolence of her heart, that she had asked these young women to her house; merely because she thought they deserved some attention, were harmless, well-behaved girls, and would be pleasant companions; for otherwise we both wished very much to have invited you and Marianne to be with us, while your kind friend there, was attending her daughter. And now to be so rewarded! ‘I wish, with all my heart,’ says poor Fanny in her affectionate way, ‘that we had asked your sisters instead of them.'”
Here he stopped to be thanked; which being done, he went on.
“What poor Mrs. Ferrars suffered, when first Fanny broke it to her, is not to be described. While she with the truest affection had been planning a most eligible connection for him, was it to be supposed that he could be all the time secretly engaged to another person!–such a suspicion could never have entered her head! If she suspected ANY prepossession elsewhere, it could not be in THAT quarter. ‘THERE, to be sure,’ said she, ‘I might have thought myself safe.’ She was quite in an agony. We consulted together, however, as to what should be done, and at last she determined to send for Edward. He came. But I am sorry to relate what ensued. All that Mrs. Ferrars could say to make him put an end to the engagement, assisted too as you may well suppose by my arguments, and Fanny’s entreaties, was of no avail. Duty, affection, every thing was disregarded. I never thought Edward so stubborn, so unfeeling before. His mother explained to him her liberal designs, in case of his marrying Miss Morton; told him she would settle on him the Norfolk estate, which, clear of land-tax, brings in a good thousand a-year; offered even, when matters grew desperate, to make it twelve hundred; and in opposition to this, if he still persisted in this low connection, represented to him the certain penury that must attend the match. His own two thousand pounds she protested should be his all; she would never see him again; and so far would she be from affording him the smallest assistance, that if he were to enter into any profession with a view of better support, she would do all in her power to prevent him advancing in it.”
Here Marianne, in an ecstasy of indignation, clapped her hands together, and cried, “Gracious God! can this be possible!”
“Well may you wonder, Marianne,” replied her brother, “at the obstinacy which could resist such arguments as these. Your exclamation is very natural.”
Marianne was going to retort, but she remembered her promises, and forbore.
“All this, however,” he continued, “was urged in vain. Edward said very little; but what he did say, was in the most determined manner. Nothing should prevail on him to give up his engagement. He would stand to it, cost him what it might.”
“Then,” cried Mrs. Jennings with blunt sincerity, no longer able to be silent, “he has acted like an honest man! I beg your pardon, Mr. Dashwood, but if he had done otherwise, I should have thought him a rascal. I have some little concern in the business, as well as yourself, for Lucy Steele is my cousin, and I believe there is not a better kind of girl in the world, nor one who more deserves a good husband.”
John Dashwood was greatly astonished; but his nature was calm, not open to provocation, and he never wished to offend anybody, especially anybody of good fortune. He therefore replied, without any resentment,
“I would by no means speak disrespectfully of any relation of yours, madam. Miss Lucy Steele is, I dare say, a very deserving young woman, but in the present case you know, the connection must be impossible. And to have entered into a secret engagement with a young man under her uncle’s care, the son of a woman especially of such very large fortune as Mrs. Ferrars, is perhaps, altogether a little extraordinary. In short, I do not mean to reflect upon the behaviour of any person whom you have a regard for, Mrs. Jennings. We all wish her extremely happy; and Mrs. Ferrars’s conduct throughout the whole, has been such as every conscientious, good mother, in like circumstances, would adopt. It has been dignified and liberal. Edward has drawn his own lot, and I fear it will be a bad one.”
Marianne sighed out her similar apprehension; and Elinor’s heart wrung for the feelings of Edward, while braving his mother’s threats, for a woman who could not reward him.
“Well, sir,” said Mrs. Jennings, “and how did it end?”
“I am sorry to say, ma’am, in a most unhappy rupture:– Edward is dismissed for ever from his mother’s notice. He left her house yesterday, but where he is gone, or whether he is still in town, I do not know; for WE of course can make no inquiry.”
“Poor young man!–and what is to become of him?”
“What, indeed, ma’am! It is a melancholy consideration. Born to the prospect of such affluence! I cannot conceive a situation more deplorable. The interest of two thousand pounds–how can a man live on it?–and when to that is added the recollection, that he might, but for his own folly, within three months have been in the receipt of two thousand, five hundred a-year (for Miss Morton has thirty thousand pounds,) I cannot picture to myself a more wretched condition. We must all feel for him; and the more so, because it is totally out of our power to assist him.”
“Poor young man!” cried Mrs. Jennings, “I am sure he should be very welcome to bed and board at my house; and so I would tell him if I could see him. It is not fit that he should be living about at his own charge now, at lodgings and taverns.”
Elinor’s heart thanked her for such kindness towards Edward, though she could not forbear smiling at the form of it.
“If he would only have done as well by himself,” said John Dashwood, “as all his friends were disposed to do by him, he might now have been in his proper situation, and would have wanted for nothing. But as it is, it must be out of anybody’s power to assist him. And there is one thing more preparing against him, which must be worse than all–his mother has determined, with a very natural kind of spirit, to settle THAT estate upon Robert immediately, which might have been Edward’s, on proper conditions. I left her this morning with her lawyer, talking over the business.”
“Well!” said Mrs. Jennings, “that is HER revenge. Everybody has a way of their own. But I don’t think mine would be, to make one son independent, because another had plagued me.”
Marianne got up and walked about the room.
“Can anything be more galling to the spirit of a man,” continued John, “than to see his younger brother in possession of an estate which might have been his own? Poor Edward! I feel for him sincerely.”
A few minutes more spent in the same kind of effusion, concluded his visit; and with repeated assurances to his sisters that he really believed there was no material danger in Fanny’s indisposition, and that they need not therefore be very uneasy about it, he went away; leaving the three ladies unanimous in their sentiments on the present occasion, as far at least as it regarded Mrs. Ferrars’s conduct, the Dashwoods’, and Edward’s.
Marianne’s indignation burst forth as soon as he quitted the room; and as her vehemence made reserve impossible in Elinor, and unnecessary in Mrs. Jennings, they all joined in a very spirited critique upon the party.
Mrs. Jennings was very warm in her praise of Edward’s conduct, but only Elinor and Marianne understood its true merit. THEY only knew how little he had had to tempt him to be disobedient, and how small was the consolation, beyond the consciousness of doing right, that could remain to him in the loss of friends and fortune. Elinor gloried in his integrity; and Marianne forgave all his offences in compassion for his punishment. But though confidence between them was, by this public discovery, restored to its proper state, it was not a subject on which either of them were fond of dwelling when alone. Elinor avoided it upon principle, as tending to fix still more upon her thoughts, by the too warm, too positive assurances of Marianne, that belief of Edward’s continued affection for herself which she rather wished to do away; and Marianne’s courage soon failed her, in trying to converse upon a topic which always left her more dissatisfied with herself than ever, by the comparison it necessarily produced between Elinor’s conduct and her own.
She felt all the force of that comparison; but not as her sister had hoped, to urge her to exertion now; she felt it with all the pain of continual self-reproach, regretted most bitterly that she had never exerted herself before; but it brought only the torture of penitence, without the hope of amendment. Her mind was so much weakened that she still fancied present exertion impossible, and therefore it only dispirited her more.
Nothing new was heard by them, for a day or two afterwards, of affairs in Harley Street, or Bartlett’s Buildings. But though so much of the matter was known to them already, that Mrs. Jennings might have had enough to do in spreading that knowledge farther, without seeking after more, she had resolved from the first to pay a visit of comfort and inquiry to her cousins as soon as she could; and nothing but the hindrance of more visitors than usual, had prevented her going to them within that time.
The third day succeeding their knowledge of the particulars, was so fine, so beautiful a Sunday as to draw many to Kensington Gardens, though it was only the second week in March. Mrs. Jennings and Elinor were of the number; but Marianne, who knew that the Willoughbys were again in town, and had a constant dread of meeting them, chose rather to stay at home, than venture into so public a place.
An intimate acquaintance of Mrs. Jennings joined them soon after they entered the Gardens, and Elinor was not sorry that by her continuing with them, and engaging all Mrs. Jennings’s conversation, she was herself left to quiet reflection. She saw nothing of the Willoughbys, nothing of Edward, and for some time nothing of anybody who could by any chance whether grave or gay, be interesting to her. But at last she found herself with some surprise, accosted by Miss Steele, who, though looking rather shy, expressed great satisfaction in meeting them, and on receiving encouragement from the particular kindness of Mrs. Jennings, left her own party for a short time, to join their’s. Mrs. Jennings immediately whispered to Elinor,
“Get it all out of her, my dear. She will tell you any thing if you ask. You see I cannot leave Mrs. Clarke.”
It was lucky, however, for Mrs. Jennings’s curiosity and Elinor’s too, that she would tell any thing WITHOUT being asked; for nothing would otherwise have been learnt.
“I am so glad to meet you;” said Miss Steele, taking her familiarly by the arm–“for I wanted to see you of all things in the world.” And then lowering her voice, “I suppose Mrs. Jennings has heard all about it. Is she angry?”
“Not at all, I believe, with you.”
“That is a good thing. And Lady Middleton, is SHE angry?”
“I cannot suppose it possible that she should.”
“I am monstrous glad of it. Good gracious! I have had such a time of it! I never saw Lucy in such a rage in my life. She vowed at first she would never trim me up a new bonnet, nor do any thing else for me again, so long as she lived; but now she is quite come to, and we are as good friends as ever. Look, she made me this bow to my hat, and put in the feather last night. There now, YOU are going to laugh at me too. But why should not I wear pink ribbons? I do not care if it IS the Doctor’s favourite colour. I am sure, for my part, I should never have known he DID like it better than any other colour, if he had not happened to say so. My cousins have been so plaguing me! I declare sometimes I do not know which way to look before them.”
She had wandered away to a subject on which Elinor had nothing to say, and therefore soon judged it expedient to find her way back again to the first.
“Well, but Miss Dashwood,” speaking triumphantly, “people may say what they chuse about Mr. Ferrars’s declaring he would not have Lucy, for it is no such thing I can tell you; and it is quite a shame for such ill-natured reports to be spread abroad. Whatever Lucy might think about it herself, you know, it was no business of other people to set it down for certain.”
“I never heard any thing of the kind hinted at before, I assure you,” said Elinor.
“Oh, did not you? But it WAS said, I know, very well, and by more than one; for Miss Godby told Miss Sparks, that nobody in their senses could expect Mr. Ferrars to give up a woman like Miss Morton, with thirty thousand pounds to her fortune, for Lucy Steele that had nothing at all; and I had it from Miss Sparks myself. And besides that, my cousin Richard said himself, that when it came to the point he was afraid Mr. Ferrars would be off; and when Edward did not come near us for three days, I could not tell what to think myself; and I believe in my heart Lucy gave it up all for lost; for we came away from your brother’s Wednesday, and we saw nothing of him not all Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and did not know what was become of him. Once Lucy thought to write to him, but then her spirits rose against that. However this morning he came just as we came home from church; and then it all came out, how he had been sent for Wednesday to Harley Street, and been talked to by his mother and all of them, and how he had declared before them all that he loved nobody but Lucy, and nobody but Lucy would he have. And how he had been so worried by what passed, that as soon as he had went away from his mother’s house, he had got upon his horse, and rid into the country, some where or other; and how he had stayed about at an inn all Thursday and Friday, on purpose to get the better of it. And after thinking it all over and over again, he said, it seemed to him as if, now he had no fortune, and no nothing at all, it would be quite unkind to keep her on to the engagement, because it must be for her loss, for he had nothing but two thousand pounds, and no hope of any thing else; and if he was to go into orders, as he had some thoughts, he could get nothing but a curacy, and how was they to live upon that?–He could not bear to think of her doing no better, and so he begged, if she had the least mind for it, to put an end to the matter directly, and leave him shift for himself. I heard him say all this as plain as could possibly be. And it was entirely for HER sake, and upon HER account, that he said a word about being off, and not upon his own. I will take my oath he never dropt a syllable of being tired of her, or of wishing to marry Miss Morton, or any thing like it. But, to be sure, Lucy would not give ear to such kind of talking; so she told him directly (with a great deal about sweet and love, you know, and all that–Oh, la! one can’t repeat such kind of things you know)–she told him directly, she had not the least mind in the world to be off, for she could live with him upon a trifle, and how little so ever he might have, she should be very glad to have it all, you know, or something of the kind. So then he was monstrous happy, and talked on some time about what they should do, and they agreed he should take orders directly, and they must wait to be married till he got a living. And just then I could not hear any more, for my cousin called from below to tell me Mrs. Richardson was come in her coach, and would take one of us to Kensington Gardens; so I was forced to go into the room and interrupt them, to ask Lucy if she would like to go, but she did not care to leave Edward; so I just run up stairs and put on a pair of silk stockings and came off with the Richardsons.”
“I do not understand what you mean by interrupting them,” said Elinor; “you were all in the same room together, were not you?”
“No, indeed, not us. La! Miss Dashwood, do you think people make love when any body else is by? Oh, for shame!–To be sure you must know better than that. (Laughing affectedly.)–No, no; they were shut up in the drawing-room together, and all I heard was only by listening at the door.”
“How!” cried Elinor; “have you been repeating to me what you only learnt yourself by listening at the door? I am sorry I did not know it before; for I certainly would not have suffered you to give me particulars of a conversation which you ought not to have known yourself. How could you behave so unfairly by your sister?”
“Oh, la! there is nothing in THAT. I only stood at the door, and heard what I could. And I am sure Lucy would have done just the same by me; for a year or two back, when Martha Sharpe and I had so many secrets together, she never made any bones of hiding in a closet, or behind a chimney-board, on purpose to hear what we said.”
Elinor tried to talk of something else; but Miss Steele could not be kept beyond a couple of minutes, from what was uppermost in her mind.
“Edward talks of going to Oxford soon,” said she; “but now he is lodging at No. –, Pall Mall. What an ill-natured woman his mother is, an’t she? And your brother and sister were not very kind! However, I shan’t say anything against them to YOU; and to be sure they did send us home in their own chariot, which was more than I looked for. And for my part, I was all in a fright for fear your sister should ask us for the huswifes she had gave us a day or two before; but, however, nothing was said about them, and I took care to keep mine out of sight. Edward have got some business at Oxford, he says; so he must go there for a time; and after THAT, as soon as he can light upon a Bishop, he will be ordained. I wonder what curacy he will get!–Good gracious! (giggling as she spoke) I’d lay my life I know what my cousins will say, when they hear of it. They will tell me I should write to the Doctor, to get Edward the curacy of his new living. I know they will; but I am sure I would not do such a thing for all the world.– ‘La!’ I shall say directly, ‘I wonder how you could think of such a thing? I write to the Doctor, indeed!'”
“Well,” said Elinor, “it is a comfort to be prepared against the worst. You have got your answer ready.”
Miss Steele was going to reply on the same subject, but the approach of her own party made another more necessary.
“Oh, la! here come the Richardsons. I had a vast deal more to say to you, but I must not stay away from them not any longer. I assure you they are very genteel people. He makes a monstrous deal of money, and they keep their own coach. I have not time to speak to Mrs. Jennings about it myself, but pray tell her I am quite happy to hear she is not in anger against us, and Lady Middleton the same; and if anything should happen to take you and your sister away, and Mrs. Jennings should want company, I am sure we should be very glad to come and stay with her for as long a time as she likes. I suppose Lady Middleton won’t ask us any more this bout. Good-by; I am sorry Miss Marianne was not here. Remember me kindly to her. La! if you have not got your spotted muslin on!–I wonder you was not afraid of its being torn.”
Such was her parting concern; for after this, she had time only to pay her farewell compliments to Mrs. Jennings, before her company was claimed by Mrs. Richardson; and Elinor was left in possession of knowledge which might feed her powers of reflection some time, though she had learnt very little more than what had been already foreseen and foreplanned in her own mind. Edward’s marriage with Lucy was as firmly determined on, and the time of its taking place remained as absolutely uncertain, as she had concluded it would be;–every thing depended, exactly after her expectation, on his getting that preferment, of which, at present, there seemed not the smallest chance.
As soon as they returned to the carriage, Mrs. Jennings was eager for information; but as Elinor wished to spread as little as possible intelligence that had in the first place been so unfairly obtained, she confined herself to the brief repetition of such simple particulars, as she felt assured that Lucy, for the sake of her own consequence, would choose to have known. The continuance of their engagement, and the means that were able to be taken for promoting its end, was all her communication; and this produced from Mrs. Jennings the following natural remark.
“Wait for his having a living!–ay, we all know how THAT will end:–they will wait a twelvemonth, and finding no good comes of it, will set down upon a curacy of fifty pounds a-year, with the interest of his two thousand pounds, and what little matter Mr. Steele and Mr. Pratt can give her.–Then they will have a child every year! and Lord help ’em! how poor they will be!–I must see what I can give them towards furnishing their house. Two maids and two men, indeed!–as I talked of t’other day.–No, no, they must get a stout girl of all works.– Betty’s sister would never do for them NOW.”
The next morning brought Elinor a letter by the two-penny post from Lucy herself. It was as follows:
“Bartlett’s Building, March.
“I hope my dear Miss Dashwood will excuse the liberty I take of writing to her; but I know your friendship for me will make you pleased to hear such a good account of myself and my dear Edward, after all the troubles we have went through lately, therefore will make no more apologies, but proceed to say that, thank God! though we have suffered dreadfully, we are both quite well now, and as happy as we must always be in one another’s love. We have had great trials, and great persecutions, but however, at the same time, gratefully acknowledge many friends, yourself not the least among them, whose great kindness I shall always thankfully remember, as will Edward too, who I have told of it. I am sure you will be glad to hear, as likewise dear Mrs. Jennings, I spent two happy hours with him yesterday afternoon, he would not hear of our parting, though earnestly did I, as I thought my duty required, urge him to it for prudence sake, and would have parted for ever on the spot, would he consent to it; but he said it should never be, he did not regard his mother’s anger, while he could have my affections; our prospects are not very bright, to be sure, but we must wait, and hope for the best; he will be ordained shortly; and should it ever be in your power to recommend him to any body that has a living to bestow, am very sure you will not forget us, and dear Mrs. Jennings too, trust she will speak a good word for us to Sir John, or Mr. Palmer, or any friend that may be able to assist us.–Poor Anne was much to blame for what she did, but she did it for the best, so I say nothing; hope Mrs. Jennings won’t think it too much trouble to give us a call, should she come this way any morning, ‘twould be a great kindness, and my cousins would be proud to know her.–My paper reminds me to conclude; and begging to be most gratefully and respectfully remembered to her, and to Sir John, and Lady Middleton, and the dear children, when you chance to see them, and love to Miss Marianne,
“I am, &c.”
As soon as Elinor had finished it, she performed what she concluded to be its writer’s real design, by placing it in the hands of Mrs. Jennings, who read it aloud with many comments of satisfaction and praise.
“Very well indeed!–how prettily she writes!–aye, that was quite proper to let him be off if he would. That was just like Lucy.–Poor soul! I wish I COULD get him a living, with all my heart.–She calls me dear Mrs. Jennings, you see. She is a good-hearted girl as ever lived.–Very well upon my word. That sentence is very prettily turned. Yes, yes, I will go and see her, sure enough. How attentive she is, to think of every body!–Thank you, my dear, for shewing it me. It is as pretty a letter as ever I saw, and does Lucy’s head and heart great credit.”
The Miss Dashwoods had now been rather more than two months in town, and Marianne’s impatience to be gone increased every day. She sighed for the air, the liberty, the quiet of the country; and fancied that if any place could give her ease, Barton must do it. Elinor was hardly less anxious than herself for their removal, and only so much less bent on its being effected immediately, as that she was conscious of the difficulties of so long a journey, which Marianne could not be brought to acknowledge. She began, however, seriously to turn her thoughts towards its accomplishment, and had already mentioned their wishes to their kind hostess, who resisted them with all the eloquence of her good-will, when a plan was suggested, which, though detaining them from home yet a few weeks longer, appeared to Elinor altogether much more eligible than any other. The Palmers were to remove to Cleveland about the end of March, for the Easter holidays; and Mrs. Jennings, with both her friends, received a very warm invitation from Charlotte to go with them. This would not, in itself, have been sufficient for the delicacy of Miss Dashwood;–but it was inforced with so much real politeness by Mr. Palmer himself, as, joined to the very great amendment of his manners towards them since her sister had been known to be unhappy, induced her to accept it with pleasure.
When she told Marianne what she had done, however, her first reply was not very auspicious.
“Cleveland!”–she cried, with great agitation. “No, I cannot go to Cleveland.”–
“You forget,” said Elinor gently, “that its situation is not…that it is not in the neighbourhood of…”
“But it is in Somersetshire.–I cannot go into Somersetshire.–There, where I looked forward to going…No, Elinor, you cannot expect me to go there.”
Elinor would not argue upon the propriety of overcoming such feelings;–she only endeavoured to counteract them by working on others;–represented it, therefore, as a measure which would fix the time of her returning to that dear mother, whom she so much wished to see, in a more eligible, more comfortable manner, than any other plan could do, and perhaps without any greater delay. From Cleveland, which was within a few miles of Bristol, the distance to Barton was not beyond one day, though a long day’s journey; and their mother’s servant might easily come there to attend them down; and as there could be no occasion of their staying above a week at Cleveland, they might now be at home in little more than three weeks’ time. As Marianne’s affection for her mother was sincere, it must triumph with little difficulty, over the imaginary evils she had started.
Mrs. Jennings was so far from being weary of her guest, that she pressed them very earnestly to return with her again from Cleveland. Elinor was grateful for the attention, but it could not alter her design; and their mother’s concurrence being readily gained, every thing relative to their return was arranged as far as it could be;– and Marianne found some relief in drawing up a statement of the hours that were yet to divide her from Barton.
“Ah! Colonel, I do not know what you and I shall do without the Miss Dashwoods;”–was Mrs. Jennings’s address to him when he first called on her, after their leaving her was settled–“for they are quite resolved upon going home from the Palmers;–and how forlorn we shall be, when I come back!–Lord! we shall sit and gape at one another as dull as two cats.”
Perhaps Mrs. Jennings was in hopes, by this vigorous sketch of their future ennui, to provoke him to make that offer, which might give himself an escape from it;– and if so, she had soon afterwards good reason to think her object gained; for, on Elinor’s moving to the window to take more expeditiously the dimensions of a print, which she was going to copy for her friend, he followed her to it with a look of particular meaning, and conversed with her there for several minutes. The effect of his discourse on the lady too, could not escape her observation, for though she was too honorable to listen, and had even changed her seat, on purpose that she might NOT hear, to one close by the piano forte on which Marianne was playing, she could not keep herself from seeing that Elinor changed colour, attended with agitation, and was too intent on what he said to pursue her employment.– Still farther in confirmation of her hopes, in the interval of Marianne’s turning from one lesson to another, some words of the Colonel’s inevitably reached her ear, in which he seemed to be apologising for the badness of his house. This set the matter beyond a doubt. She wondered, indeed, at his thinking it necessary to do so; but supposed it to be the proper etiquette. What Elinor said in reply she could not distinguish, but judged from the motion of her lips, that she did not think THAT any material objection;–and Mrs. Jennings commended her in her heart for being so honest. They then talked on for a few minutes longer without her catching a syllable, when another lucky stop in Marianne’s performance brought her these words in the Colonel’s calm voice,–
“I am afraid it cannot take place very soon.”
Astonished and shocked at so unlover-like a speech, she was almost ready to cry out, “Lord! what should hinder it?”–but checking her desire, confined herself to this silent ejaculation.
“This is very strange!–sure he need not wait to be older.”
This delay on the Colonel’s side, however, did not seem to offend or mortify his fair companion in the least, for on their breaking up the conference soon afterwards, and moving different ways, Mrs. Jennings very plainly heard Elinor say, and with a voice which shewed her to feel what she said,
“I shall always think myself very much obliged to you.”
Mrs. Jennings was delighted with her gratitude, and only wondered that after hearing such a sentence, the Colonel should be able to take leave of them, as he immediately did, with the utmost sang-froid, and go away without making her any reply!–She had not thought her old friend could have made so indifferent a suitor.
What had really passed between them was to this effect.
“I have heard,” said he, with great compassion, “of the injustice your friend Mr. Ferrars has suffered from his family; for if I understand the matter right, he has been entirely cast off by them for persevering in his engagement with a very deserving young woman.– Have I been rightly informed?–Is it so?–”
Elinor told him that it was.
“The cruelty, the impolitic cruelty,”–he replied, with great feeling,–“of dividing, or attempting to divide, two young people long attached to each other, is terrible.– Mrs. Ferrars does not know what she may be doing–what she may drive her son to. I have seen Mr. Ferrars two or three times in Harley Street, and am much pleased with him. He is not a young man with whom one can be intimately acquainted in a short time, but I have seen enough of him to wish him well for his own sake, and as a friend of yours, I wish it still more. I understand that he intends to take orders. Will you be so good as to tell him that the living of Delaford, now just vacant, as I am informed by this day’s post, is his, if he think it worth his acceptance–but THAT, perhaps, so unfortunately circumstanced as he is now, it may be nonsense to appear to doubt; I only wish it were more valuable.– It is a rectory, but a small one; the late incumbent, I believe, did not make more than 200 L per annum, and though it is certainly capable of improvement, I fear, not to such an amount as to afford him a very comfortable income. Such as it is, however, my pleasure in presenting him to it, will be very great. Pray assure him of it.”
Elinor’s astonishment at this commission could hardly have been greater, had the Colonel been really making her an offer of his hand. The preferment, which only two days before she had considered as hopeless for Edward, was already provided to enable him to marry;– and SHE, of all people in the world, was fixed on to bestow it!–Her emotion was such as Mrs. Jennings had attributed to a very different cause;–but whatever minor feelings less pure, less pleasing, might have a share in that emotion, her esteem for the general benevolence, and her gratitude for the particular friendship, which together prompted Colonel Brandon to this act, were strongly felt, and warmly expressed. She thanked him for it with all her heart, spoke of Edward’s principles and disposition with that praise which she knew them to deserve; and promised to undertake the commission with pleasure, if it were really his wish to put off so agreeable an office to another. But at the same time, she could not help thinking that no one could so well perform it as himself. It was an office in short, from which, unwilling to give Edward the pain of receiving an obligation from HER, she would have been very glad to be spared herself;– but Colonel Brandon, on motives of equal delicacy, declining it likewise, still seemed so desirous of its being given through her means, that she would not on any account make farther opposition. Edward, she believed, was still in town,
and fortunately she had heard his address from Miss Steele. She could undertake therefore to inform him of it, in the course of the day. After this had been settled, Colonel Brandon began to talk of his own advantage in securing so respectable and agreeable a neighbour, and THEN it was that he mentioned with regret, that the house was small and indifferent;–an evil which Elinor, as Mrs. Jennings had supposed her to do, made very light of, at least as far as regarded its size.
“The smallness of the house,” said she, “I cannot imagine any inconvenience to them, for it will be in proportion to their family and income.”
By which the Colonel was surprised to find that SHE was considering Mr. Ferrars’s marriage as the certain consequence of the presentation; for he did not suppose it possible that Delaford living could supply such an income, as anybody in his style of life would venture to settle on– and he said so.
“This little rectory CAN do no more than make Mr. Ferrars comfortable as a bachelor; it cannot enable him to marry. I am sorry to say that my patronage ends with this; and my interest is hardly more extensive. If, however, by an unforeseen chance it should be in my power to serve him farther, I must think very differently of him from what I now do, if I am not as ready to be useful to him then as I sincerely wish I could be at present. What I am now doing indeed, seems nothing at all, since it can advance him so little towards what must be his principal, his only object of happiness. His marriage must still be a distant good;–at least, I am afraid it cannot take place very soon.–”
Such was the sentence which, when misunderstood, so justly offended the delicate feelings of Mrs. Jennings; but after this narration of what really passed between Colonel Brandon and Elinor, while they stood at the window, the gratitude expressed by the latter on their parting, may perhaps appear in general, not less reasonably excited, nor less properly worded than if it had arisen from an offer of marriage.
“Well, Miss Dashwood,” said Mrs. Jennings, sagaciously smiling, as soon as the gentleman had withdrawn, “I do not ask you what the Colonel has been saying to you; for though, upon my honour, I TRIED to keep out of hearing, I could not help catching enough to understand his business. And I assure you I never was better pleased in my life, and I wish you joy of it with all my heart.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” said Elinor. “It is a matter of great joy to me; and I feel the goodness of Colonel Brandon most sensibly. There are not many men who would act as he has done. Few people who have so compassionate a heart! I never was more astonished in my life.”
“Lord! my dear, you are very modest. I an’t the least astonished at it in the world, for I have often thought of late, there was nothing more likely to happen.”
“You judged from your knowledge of the Colonel’s general benevolence; but at least you could not foresee that the opportunity would so very soon occur.”
“Opportunity!” repeated Mrs. Jennings–“Oh! as to that, when a man has once made up his mind to such a thing, somehow or other he will soon find an opportunity. Well, my dear, I wish you joy of it again and again; and if ever there was a happy couple in the world, I think I shall soon know where to look for them.”
“You mean to go to Delaford after them I suppose,” said Elinor, with a faint smile.
“Aye, my dear, that I do, indeed. And as to the house being a bad one, I do not know what the Colonel would be at, for it is as good a one as ever I saw.”
“He spoke of its being out of repair.”
“Well, and whose fault is that? why don’t he repair it?– who should do it but himself?”
They were interrupted by the servant’s coming in to announce the carriage being at the door; and Mrs. Jennings immediately preparing to go, said,–
“Well, my dear, I must be gone before I have had half my talk out. But, however, we may have it all over in the evening; for we shall be quite alone. I do not ask you to go with me, for I dare say your mind is too full of the matter to care for company; and besides, you must long to tell your sister all about it.”
Marianne had left the room before the conversation began.
“Certainly, ma’am, I shall tell Marianne of it; but I shall not mention it at present to any body else.”
“Oh! very well,” said Mrs. Jennings rather disappointed. “Then you would not have me tell it to Lucy, for I think of going as far as Holborn to-day.”
“No, ma’am, not even Lucy if you please. One day’s delay will not be very material; and till I have written to Mr. Ferrars, I think it ought not to be mentioned to any body else. I shall do THAT directly. It is of importance that no time should be lost with him, for he will of course have much to do relative to his ordination.”
This speech at first puzzled Mrs. Jennings exceedingly. Why Mr. Ferrars was to have been written to about it in such a hurry, she could not immediately comprehend. A few moments’ reflection, however, produced a very happy idea, and she exclaimed;–
“Oh, ho!–I understand you. Mr. Ferrars is to be the man. Well, so much the better for him. Ay, to be sure, he must be ordained in readiness; and I am very glad to find things are so forward between you. But, my dear, is not this rather out of character? Should not the Colonel write himself?–sure, he is the proper person.”
Elinor did not quite understand the beginning of Mrs. Jennings’s speech, neither did she think it worth inquiring into; and therefore only replied to its conclusion.
“Colonel Brandon is so delicate a man, that he rather wished any one to announce his intentions to Mr. Ferrars than himself.”
“And so YOU are forced to do it. Well THAT is an odd kind of delicacy! However, I will not disturb you (seeing her preparing to write.) You know your own concerns best. So goodby, my dear. I have not heard of any thing to please me so well since Charlotte was brought to bed.”
And away she went; but returning again in a moment,
“I have just been thinking of Betty’s sister, my dear. I should be very glad to get her so good a mistress. But whether she would do for a lady’s maid, I am sure I can’t tell. She is an excellent housemaid, and works very well at her needle. However, you will think of all that at your leisure.”
“Certainly, ma’am,” replied Elinor, not hearing much of what she said, and more anxious to be alone, than to be mistress of the subject.
How she should begin–how she should express herself in her note to Edward, was now all her concern. The particular circumstances between them made a difficulty of that which to any other person would have been the easiest thing in the world; but she equally feared to say too much or too little, and sat deliberating over her paper, with the pen in her hand, till broken in on by the entrance of Edward himself.
He had met Mrs. Jennings at the door in her way to the carriage, as he came to leave his farewell card; and she, after apologising for not returning herself, had obliged him to enter, by saying that Miss Dashwood was above, and wanted to speak with him on very particular business.
Elinor had just been congratulating herself, in the midst of her perplexity, that however difficult it might be to express herself properly by letter, it was at least preferable to giving the information by word of mouth, when her visitor entered, to force her upon this greatest exertion of all. Her astonishment and confusion were very great on his so sudden appearance. She had not seen him before since his engagement became public, and therefore not since his knowing her to be acquainted with it; which, with the consciousness of what she had been thinking of, and what she had to tell him, made her feel particularly uncomfortable for some minutes. He too was much distressed; and they sat down together in a most promising state of embarrassment.–Whether he had asked her pardon for his intrusion on first coming into the room, he could not recollect; but determining to be on the safe side, he made his apology in form as soon as he could say any thing, after taking a chair.
“Mrs. Jennings told me,” said he, “that you wished to speak with me, at least I understood her so–or I certainly should not have intruded on you in such a manner; though at the same time, I should have been extremely sorry to leave London without seeing you and your sister; especially as it will most likely be some time–it is not probable that I should soon have the pleasure of meeting you again. I go to Oxford tomorrow.”
“You would not have gone, however,” said Elinor, recovering herself, and determined to get over what she so much dreaded as soon as possible, “without receiving our good wishes, even if we had not been able to give them in person. Mrs. Jennings was quite right in what she said. I have something of consequence to inform you of, which I was on the point of communicating by paper. I am charged with a most agreeable office (breathing rather faster than usual as she spoke.) Colonel Brandon, who was here only ten minutes ago, has desired me to say, that understanding you mean to take orders, he has great pleasure in offering you the living of Delaford now just vacant, and only wishes it were more valuable. Allow me to congratulate you on having so respectable and well-judging a friend, and to join in his wish that the living–it is about two hundred a-year–were much more considerable, and such as might better enable you to–as might be more than a temporary accommodation to yourself–such, in short, as might establish all your views of happiness.”
What Edward felt, as he could not say it himself, it cannot be expected that any one else should say for him. He LOOKED all the astonishment which such unexpected, such unthought-of information could not fail of exciting; but he said only these two words,
“Yes,” continued Elinor, gathering more resolution, as some of the worst was over, “Colonel Brandon means it as a testimony of his concern for what has lately passed–for the cruel situation in which the unjustifiable conduct of your family has placed you–a concern which I am sure Marianne, myself, and all your friends, must share; and likewise as a proof of his high esteem for your general character, and his particular approbation of your behaviour on the present occasion.”
“Colonel Brandon give ME a living!–Can it be possible?”
“The unkindness of your own relations has made you astonished to find friendship any where.”
“No,” replied be, with sudden consciousness, “not to find it in YOU; for I cannot be ignorant that to you, to your goodness, I owe it all.–I feel it–I would express it if I could–but, as you well know, I am no orator.”
“You are very much mistaken. I do assure you that you owe it entirely, at least almost entirely, to your own merit, and Colonel Brandon’s discernment of it. I have had no hand in it. I did not even know, till I understood his design, that the living was vacant; nor had it ever occurred to me that he might have had such a living in his gift. As a friend of mine, of my family, he may, perhaps–indeed I know he HAS, still greater pleasure in bestowing it; but, upon my word, you owe nothing to my solicitation.”
Truth obliged her to acknowledge some small share in the action, but she was at the same time so unwilling to appear as the benefactress of Edward, that she acknowledged it with hesitation; which probably contributed to fix that suspicion in his mind which had recently entered it. For a short time he sat deep in thought, after Elinor had ceased to speak;–at last, and as if it were rather an effort, he said,
“Colonel Brandon seems a man of great worth and respectability. I have always heard him spoken of as such, and your brother I know esteems him highly. He is undoubtedly a sensible man, and in his manners perfectly the gentleman.”
“Indeed,” replied Elinor, “I believe that you will find him, on farther acquaintance, all that you have heard him to be, and as you will be such very near neighbours (for I understand the parsonage is almost close to the mansion-house,) it is particularly important that he SHOULD be all this.”
Edward made no answer; but when she had turned away her head, gave her a look so serious, so earnest, so uncheerful, as seemed to say, that he might hereafter wish the distance between the parsonage and the mansion-house much greater.
“Colonel Brandon, I think, lodges in St. James Street,” said he, soon afterwards, rising from his chair.
Elinor told him the number of the house.
“I must hurry away then, to give him those thanks which you will not allow me to give YOU; to assure him that he has made me a very–an exceedingly happy man.”
Elinor did not offer to detain him; and they parted, with a very earnest assurance on HER side of her unceasing good wishes for his happiness in every change of situation that might befall him; on HIS, with rather an attempt to return the same good will, than the power of expressing it.
“When I see him again,” said Elinor to herself, as the door shut him out, “I shall see him the husband of Lucy.”
And with this pleasing anticipation, she sat down to reconsider the past, recall the words and endeavour to comprehend all the feelings of Edward; and, of course, to reflect on her own with discontent.
When Mrs. Jennings came home, though she returned from seeing people whom she had never seen before, and of whom therefore she must have a great deal to say, her mind was so much more occupied by the important secret in her possession, than by anything else, that she reverted to it again as soon as Elinor appeared.
“Well, my dear,” she cried, “I sent you up to the young man. Did not I do right?–And I suppose you had no great difficulty–You did not find him very unwilling to accept your proposal?”
“No, ma’am; THAT was not very likely.”
“Well, and how soon will he be ready?–For it seems all to depend upon that.”
“Really,” said Elinor, “I know so little of these kind of forms, that I can hardly even conjecture as to the time, or the preparation necessary; but I suppose two or three months will complete his ordination.”
“Two or three months!” cried Mrs. Jennings; “Lord! my dear, how calmly you talk of it; and can the Colonel wait two or three months! Lord bless me!–I am sure it would put ME quite out of patience!–And though one would be very glad to do a kindness by poor Mr. Ferrars, I do think it is not worth while to wait two or three months for him. Sure somebody else might be found that would do as well; somebody that is in orders already.”
“My dear ma’am,” said Elinor, “what can you be thinking of?– Why, Colonel Brandon’s only object is to be of use to Mr. Ferrars.”
“Lord bless you, my dear!–Sure you do not mean to persuade me that the Colonel only marries you for the sake of giving ten guineas to Mr. Ferrars!”
The deception could not continue after this; and an explanation immediately took place, by which both gained considerable amusement for the moment, without any material loss of happiness to either, for Mrs. Jennings only exchanged one form of delight for another, and still without forfeiting her expectation of the first.
“Aye, aye, the parsonage is but a small one,” said she, after the first ebullition of surprise and satisfaction was over, “and very likely MAY be out of repair; but to hear a man apologising, as I thought, for a house that to my knowledge has five sitting rooms on the ground-floor, and I think the housekeeper told me could make up fifteen beds!– and to you too, that had been used to live in Barton cottage!– It seems quite ridiculous. But, my dear, we must touch up the Colonel to do some thing to the parsonage, and make it comfortable for them, before Lucy goes to it.”
“But Colonel Brandon does not seem to have any idea of the living’s being enough to allow them to marry.”
“The Colonel is a ninny, my dear; because he has two thousand a-year himself, he thinks that nobody else can marry on less. Take my word for it, that, if I am alive, I shall be paying a visit at Delaford Parsonage before Michaelmas; and I am sure I shan’t go if Lucy an’t there.”
Elinor was quite of her opinion, as to the probability of their not waiting for any thing more.
Edward, having carried his thanks to Colonel Brandon, proceeded with his happiness to Lucy; and such was the excess of it by the time he reached Bartlett’s Buildings, that she was able to assure Mrs. Jennings, who called on her again the next day with her congratulations, that she had never seen him in such spirits before in her life.
Her own happiness, and her own spirits, were at least very certain; and she joined Mrs. Jennings most heartily in her expectation of their being all comfortably together in Delaford Parsonage before Michaelmas. So far was she, at the same time, from any backwardness to give Elinor that credit which Edward WOULD give her, that she spoke of her friendship for them both with the most grateful warmth, was ready to own all their obligation to her, and openly declared that no exertion for their good on Miss Dashwood’s part, either present or future, would ever surprise her, for she believed her capable of doing any thing in the world for those she really valued. As for Colonel Brandon, she was not only ready to worship him as a saint, but was moreover truly anxious that he should be treated as one in all worldly concerns; anxious that his tithes should be raised to the utmost; and scarcely resolved to avail herself, at Delaford, as far as she possibly could, of his servants, his carriage, his cows, and his poultry.
It was now above a week since John Dashwood had called in Berkeley Street, and as since that time no notice had been taken by them of his wife’s indisposition, beyond one verbal enquiry, Elinor began to feel it necessary to pay her a visit.–This was an obligation, however, which not only opposed her own inclination, but which had not the assistance of any encouragement from her companions. Marianne, not contented with absolutely refusing to go herself, was very urgent to prevent her sister’s going at all; and Mrs. Jennings, though her carriage was always at Elinor’s service, so very much disliked Mrs. John Dashwood, that not even her curiosity to see how she looked after the late discovery, nor her strong desire to affront her by taking Edward’s part, could overcome her unwillingness to be in her company again. The consequence was, that Elinor set out by herself to pay a visit, for which no one could really have less inclination, and to run the risk of a tete-a-tete with a woman, whom neither of the others had so much reason to dislike.
Mrs. Dashwood was denied; but before the carriage could turn from the house, her husband accidentally came out. He expressed great pleasure in meeting Elinor, told her that he had been just going to call in Berkeley Street, and, assuring her that Fanny would be very glad to see her, invited her to come in.
They walked up stairs in to the drawing-room.–Nobody was there.
“Fanny is in her own room, I suppose,” said he:–“I will go to her presently, for I am sure she will not have the least objection in the world to seeing YOU.– Very far from it, indeed. NOW especially there cannot be–but however, you and Marianne were always great favourites.–Why would not Marianne come?”–
Elinor made what excuse she could for her.
“I am not sorry to see you alone,” he replied, “for I have a good deal to say to you. This living of Colonel Brandon’s–can it be true?–has he really given it to Edward?–I heard it yesterday by chance, and was coming to you on purpose to enquire farther about it.”
“It is perfectly true.–Colonel Brandon has given the living of Delaford to Edward.”
“Really!–Well, this is very astonishing!–no relationship!–no connection between them!–and now that livings fetch such a price!–what was the value of this?”
“About two hundred a year.”
“Very well–and for the next presentation to a living of that value–supposing the late incumbent to have been old and sickly, and likely to vacate it soon–he might have got I dare say–fourteen hundred pounds. And how came he not to have settled that matter before this person’s death?–NOW indeed it would be too late to sell it, but a man of Colonel Brandon’s sense!–I wonder he should be so improvident in a point of such common, such natural, concern!–Well, I am convinced that there is a vast deal of inconsistency in almost every human character. I suppose, however–on recollection–that the case may probably be THIS. Edward is only to hold the living till the person to whom the Colonel has really sold the presentation, is old enough to take it.–Aye, aye, that is the fact, depend upon it.”
Elinor contradicted it, however, very positively; and by relating that she had herself been employed in conveying the offer from Colonel Brandon to Edward, and, therefore, must understand the terms on which it was given, obliged him to submit to her authority.
“It is truly astonishing!”–he cried, after hearing what she said–“what could be the Colonel’s motive?”
“A very simple one–to be of use to Mr. Ferrars.”
“Well, well; whatever Colonel Brandon may be, Edward is a very lucky man.–You will not mention the matter to Fanny, however, for though I have broke it to her, and she bears it vastly well,–she will not like to hear it much talked of.”
Elinor had some difficulty here to refrain from observing, that she thought Fanny might have borne with composure, an acquisition of wealth to her brother, by which neither she nor her child could be possibly impoverished.
“Mrs. Ferrars,” added he, lowering his voice to the tone becoming so important a subject, “knows nothing about it at present, and I believe it will be best to keep it entirely concealed from her as long as may be.– When the marriage takes place, I fear she must hear of it all.”
“But why should such precaution be used?–Though it is not to be supposed that Mrs. Ferrars can have the smallest satisfaction in knowing that her son has money enough to live upon,–for THAT must be quite out of the question; yet why, upon her late behaviour, is she supposed to feel at all?–She has done with her son, she cast him off for ever, and has made all those over whom she had any influence, cast him off likewise. Surely, after doing so, she cannot be imagined liable to any impression of sorrow or of joy on his account– she cannot be interested in any thing that befalls him.– She would not be so weak as to throw away the comfort of a child, and yet retain the anxiety of a parent!”
“Ah! Elinor,” said John, “your reasoning is very good, but it is founded on ignorance of human nature. When Edward’s unhappy match takes place, depend upon it his mother will feel as much as if she had never discarded him; and, therefore every circumstance that may accelerate that dreadful event, must be concealed from her as much as possible. Mrs. Ferrars can never forget that Edward is her son.”
“You surprise me; I should think it must nearly have escaped her memory by THIS time.”
“You wrong her exceedingly. Mrs. Ferrars is one of the most affectionate mothers in the world.”
Elinor was silent.
“We think NOW,”–said Mr. Dashwood, after a short pause, “of ROBERT’S marrying Miss Morton.”
Elinor, smiling at the grave and decisive importance of her brother’s tone, calmly replied,
“The lady, I suppose, has no choice in the affair.”
“Choice!–how do you mean?”
“I only mean that I suppose, from your manner of speaking, it must be the same to Miss Morton whether she marry Edward or Robert.”
“Certainly, there can be no difference; for Robert will now to all intents and purposes be considered as the eldest son;–and as to any thing else, they are both very agreeable young men: I do not know that one is superior to the other.”
Elinor said no more, and John was also for a short time silent.–His reflections ended thus.
“Of ONE thing, my dear sister,” kindly taking her hand, and speaking in an awful whisper,–“I may assure you;– and I WILL do it, because I know it must gratify you. I have good reason to think–indeed I have it from the best authority, or I should not repeat it, for otherwise it would be very wrong to say any thing about it–but I have it from the very best authority–not that I ever precisely heard Mrs. Ferrars say it herself–but her daughter DID, and I have it from her–That in short, whatever objections there might be against a certain–a certain connection–you understand me–it would have been far preferable to her, it would not have given her half the vexation that THIS does. I was exceedingly pleased to hear that Mrs. Ferrars considered it in that light– a very gratifying circumstance you know to us all. ‘It would have been beyond comparison,’ she said, ‘the least evil of the two, and she would be glad to compound NOW for nothing worse.’ But however, all that is quite out of the question–not to be thought of or mentioned– as to any attachment you know–it never could be–all that is gone by. But I thought I would just tell you of this, because I knew how much it must please you. Not that you have any reason to regret, my dear Elinor. There is no doubt of your doing exceedingly well–quite as well, or better, perhaps, all things considered. Has Colonel Brandon been with you lately?”
Elinor had heard enough, if not to gratify her vanity, and raise her self-importance, to agitate her nerves and fill her mind;–and she was therefore glad to be spared from the necessity of saying much in reply herself, and from the danger of hearing any thing more from her brother, by the entrance of Mr. Robert Ferrars. After a few moments’ chat, John Dashwood, recollecting that Fanny was yet uninformed of her sister’s being there, quitted the room in quest of her; and Elinor was left to improve her acquaintance with Robert, who, by the gay unconcern, the happy self-complacency of his manner while enjoying so unfair a division of his mother’s love and liberality, to the prejudice of his banished brother, earned only by his own dissipated course of life, and that brother’s integrity, was confirming her most unfavourable opinion of his head and heart.
They had scarcely been two minutes by themselves, before he began to speak of Edward; for he, too, had heard of the living, and was very inquisitive on the subject. Elinor repeated the particulars of it, as she had given them to John; and their effect on Robert, though very different, was not less striking than it had been on HIM. He laughed most immoderately. The idea of Edward’s being a clergyman, and living in a small parsonage-house, diverted him beyond measure;–and when to that was added the fanciful imagery of Edward reading prayers in a white surplice, and publishing the banns of marriage between John Smith and Mary Brown, he could conceive nothing more ridiculous.
Elinor, while she waited in silence and immovable gravity, the conclusion of such folly, could not restrain her eyes from being fixed on him with a look that spoke all the contempt it excited. It was a look, however, very well bestowed, for it relieved her own feelings, and gave no intelligence to him. He was recalled from wit to wisdom, not by any reproof of her’s, but by his own sensibility.
“We may treat it as a joke,” said he, at last, recovering from the affected laugh which had considerably lengthened out the genuine gaiety of the moment–“but, upon my soul, it is a most serious business. Poor Edward! he is ruined for ever. I am extremely sorry for it– for I know him to be a very good-hearted creature; as well-meaning a fellow perhaps, as any in the world. You must not judge of him, Miss Dashwood, from YOUR slight acquaintance.–Poor Edward!–His manners are certainly not the happiest in nature.–But we are not all born, you know, with the same powers,–the same address.– Poor fellow!–to see him in a circle of strangers!– to be sure it was pitiable enough!–but upon my soul, I believe he has as good a heart as any in the kingdom; and I declare and protest to you I never was so shocked in my life, as when it all burst forth. I could not believe it.– My mother was the first person who told me of it; and I, feeling myself called on to act with resolution, immediately said to her, ‘My dear madam, I do not know what you may intend to do on the occasion, but as for myself, I must say, that if Edward does marry this young woman, I never will see him again.’ That was what I said immediately.– I was most uncommonly shocked, indeed!–Poor Edward!–he has done for himself completely–shut himself out for ever from all decent society!–but, as I directly said to my mother, I am not in the least surprised at it; from his style of education, it was always to be expected. My poor mother was half frantic.”
“Have you ever seen the lady?”
“Yes; once, while she was staying in this house, I happened to drop in for ten minutes; and I saw quite enough of her. The merest awkward country girl, without style, or elegance, and almost without beauty.– I remember her perfectly. Just the kind of girl I should suppose likely to captivate poor Edward. I offered immediately, as soon as my mother related the affair to me, to talk to him myself, and dissuade him from the match; but it was too late THEN, I found, to do any thing, for unluckily, I was not in the way at first, and knew nothing of it till after the breach had taken place, when it was not for me, you know, to interfere. But had I been informed of it a few hours earlier–I think it is most probable–that something might have been hit on. I certainly should have represented it to Edward in a very strong light. ‘My dear fellow,’ I should have said, ‘consider what you are doing. You are making a most disgraceful connection, and such a one as your family are unanimous in disapproving.’ I cannot help thinking, in short, that means might have been found. But now it is all too late. He must be starved, you know;– that is certain; absolutely starved.”
He had just settled this point with great composure, when the entrance of Mrs. John Dashwood put an end to the subject.
But though SHE never spoke of it out of her own family, Elinor could see its influence on her mind, in the something like confusion of countenance with which she entered, and an attempt at cordiality in her behaviour to herself. She even proceeded so far as to be concerned to find that Elinor and her sister were so soon to leave town, as she had hoped to see more of them;–an exertion in which her husband, who attended her into the room, and hung enamoured over her accents, seemed to distinguish every thing that was most affectionate and graceful.
One other short call in Harley Street, in which Elinor received her brother’s congratulations on their travelling so far towards Barton without any expense, and on Colonel Brandon’s being to follow them to Cleveland in a day or two, completed the intercourse of the brother and sisters in town;–and a faint invitation from Fanny, to come to Norland whenever it should happen to be in their way, which of all things was the most unlikely to occur, with a more warm, though less public, assurance, from John to Elinor, of the promptitude with which he should come to see her at Delaford, was all that foretold any meeting in the country.
It amused her to observe that all her friends seemed determined to send her to Delaford;–a place, in which, of all others, she would now least chuse to visit, or wish to reside; for not only was it considered as her future home by her brother and Mrs. Jennings, but even Lucy, when they parted, gave her a pressing invitation to visit her there.
Very early in April, and tolerably early in the day, the two parties from Hanover Square and Berkeley Street set out from their respective homes, to meet, by appointment, on the road. For the convenience of Charlotte and her child, they were to be more than two days on their journey, and Mr. Palmer, travelling more expeditiously with Colonel Brandon, was to join them at Cleveland soon after their arrival.
Marianne, few as had been her hours of comfort in London, and eager as she had long been to quit it, could not, when it came to the point, bid adieu to the house in which she had for the last time enjoyed those hopes, and that confidence, in Willoughby, which were now extinguished for ever, without great pain. Nor could she leave the place in which Willoughby remained, busy in new engagements, and new schemes, in which SHE could have no share, without shedding many tears.
Elinor’s satisfaction, at the moment of removal, was more positive. She had no such object for her lingering thoughts to fix on, she left no creature behind, from whom it would give her a moment’s regret to be divided for ever, she was pleased to be free herself from the persecution of Lucy’s friendship, she was grateful for bringing her sister away unseen by Willoughby since his marriage, and she looked forward with hope to what a few months of tranquility at Barton might do towards restoring Marianne’s peace of mind, and confirming her own.
Their journey was safely performed. The second day brought them into the cherished, or the prohibited, county of Somerset, for as such was it dwelt on by turns in Marianne’s imagination; and in the forenoon of the third they drove up to Cleveland.
Cleveland was a spacious, modern-built house, situated on a sloping lawn. It had no park, but the pleasure-grounds were tolerably extensive; and like every other place of the same degree of importance, it had its open shrubbery, and closer wood walk, a road of smooth gravel winding round a plantation, led to the front, the lawn was dotted over with timber, the house itself was under the guardianship of the fir, the mountain-ash, and the acacia, and a thick screen of them altogether, interspersed with tall Lombardy poplars, shut out the offices.
Marianne entered the house with a heart swelling with emotion from the consciousness of being only eighty miles from Barton, and not thirty from Combe Magna; and before she had been five minutes within its walls, while the others were busily helping Charlotte to show her child to the housekeeper, she quitted it again, stealing away through the winding shrubberies, now just beginning to be in beauty, to gain a distant eminence; where, from its Grecian temple, her eye, wandering over a wide tract of country to the south-east, could fondly rest on the farthest ridge of hills in the horizon, and fancy that from their summits Combe Magna might be seen.
In such moments of precious, invaluable misery, she rejoiced in tears of agony to be at Cleveland; and as she returned by a different circuit to the house, feeling all the happy privilege of country liberty, of wandering from place to place in free and luxurious solitude, she resolved to spend almost every hour of every day while she remained with the Palmers, in the indulgence of such solitary rambles.
She returned just in time to join the others as they quitted the house, on an excursion through its more immediate premises; and the rest of the morning was easily whiled away, in lounging round the kitchen garden, examining the bloom upon its walls, and listening to the gardener’s lamentations upon blights, in dawdling through the green-house, where the loss of her favourite plants, unwarily exposed, and nipped by the lingering frost, raised the laughter of Charlotte,–and in visiting her poultry-yard, where, in the disappointed hopes of her dairy-maid, by hens forsaking their nests, or being stolen by a fox, or in the rapid decrease of a promising young brood, she found fresh sources of merriment.
The morning was fine and dry, and Marianne, in her plan of employment abroad, had not calculated for any change of weather during their stay at Cleveland. With great surprise therefore, did she find herself prevented by a settled rain from going out again after dinner. She had depended on a twilight walk to the Grecian temple, and perhaps all over the grounds, and an evening merely cold or damp would not have deterred her from it; but a heavy and settled rain even SHE could not fancy dry or pleasant weather for walking.
Their party was small, and the hours passed quietly away. Mrs. Palmer had her child, and Mrs. Jennings her carpet-work; they talked of the friends they had left behind, arranged Lady Middleton’s engagements, and wondered whether Mr. Palmer and Colonel Brandon would get farther than Reading that night. Elinor, however little concerned in it, joined in their discourse; and Marianne, who had the knack of finding her way in every house to the library, however it might be avoided by the family in general, soon procured herself a book.
Nothing was wanting on Mrs. Palmer’s side that constant and friendly good humour could do, to make them feel themselves welcome. The openness and heartiness of her manner more than atoned for that want of recollection and elegance which made her often deficient in the forms of politeness; her kindness, recommended by so pretty a face, was engaging; her folly, though evident was not disgusting, because it was not conceited; and Elinor could have forgiven every thing but her laugh.
The two gentlemen arrived the next day to a very late dinner, affording a pleasant enlargement of the party, and a very welcome variety to their conversation, which a long morning of the same continued rain had reduced very low.
Elinor had seen so little of Mr. Palmer, and in that little had seen so much variety in his address to her sister and herself, that she knew not what to expect to find him in his own family. She found him, however, perfectly the gentleman in his behaviour to all his visitors, and only occasionally rude to his wife and her mother; she found him very capable of being a pleasant companion, and only prevented from being so always, by too great an aptitude to fancy himself as much superior to people in general, as he must feel himself to be to Mrs. Jennings and Charlotte. For the rest of his character and habits, they were marked, as far as Elinor could perceive, with no traits at all unusual in his sex and time of life. He was nice in his eating, uncertain in his hours; fond of his child, though affecting to slight it; and idled away the mornings at billiards, which ought to have been devoted to business. She liked him, however, upon the whole, much better than she had expected, and in her heart was not sorry that she could like him no more;– not sorry to be driven by the observation of his Epicurism, his selfishness, and his conceit, to rest with complacency on the remembrance of Edward’s generous temper, simple taste, and diffident feelings.
Of Edward, or at least of some of his concerns, she now received intelligence from Colonel Brandon, who had been into Dorsetshire lately; and who, treating her at once as the disinterested friend of Mr. Ferrars, and the kind of confidant of himself, talked to her a great deal of the parsonage at Delaford, described its deficiencies, and told her what he meant to do himself towards removing them.–His behaviour to her in this, as well as in every other particular, his open pleasure in meeting her after an absence of only ten days, his readiness to converse with her, and his deference for her opinion, might very well justify Mrs. Jennings’s persuasion of his attachment, and would have been enough, perhaps, had not Elinor still, as from the first, believed Marianne his real favourite, to make her suspect it herself. But as it was, such a notion had scarcely ever entered her head, except by Mrs. Jennings’s suggestion; and she could not help believing herself the nicest observer of the two;–she watched his eyes, while Mrs. Jennings thought only of his behaviour;–and while his looks of anxious solicitude on Marianne’s feeling, in her head and throat, the beginning of a heavy cold, because unexpressed by words, entirely escaped the latter lady’s observation;–SHE could discover in them the quick feelings, and needless alarm of a lover.
Two delightful twilight walks on the third and fourth evenings of her being there, not merely on the dry gravel of the shrubbery, but all over the grounds, and especially in the most distant parts of them, where there was something more of wildness than in the rest, where the trees were the oldest, and the grass was the longest and wettest, had–assisted by the still greater imprudence of sitting in her wet shoes and stockings–given Marianne a cold so violent as, though for a day or two trifled with or denied, would force itself by increasing ailments on the concern of every body, and the notice of herself. Prescriptions poured in from all quarters, and as usual, were all declined. Though heavy and feverish, with a pain in her limbs, and a cough, and a sore throat, a good night’s rest was to cure her entirely; and it was with difficulty that Elinor prevailed on her, when she went to bed, to try one or two of the simplest of the remedies.
Marianne got up the next morning at her usual time; to every inquiry replied that she was better, and tried to prove herself so, by engaging in her accustomary employments. But a day spent in sitting shivering over the fire with a book in her hand, which she was unable to read, or in lying, weary and languid, on a sofa, did not speak much in favour of her amendment; and when, at last, she went early to bed, more and more indisposed, Colonel Brandon was only astonished at her sister’s composure, who, though attending and nursing her the whole day, against Marianne’s inclination, and forcing proper medicines on her at night, trusted, like Marianne, to the certainty and efficacy of sleep, and felt no real alarm.
A very restless and feverish night, however, disappointed the expectation of both; and when Marianne, after persisting in rising, confessed herself unable to sit up, and returned voluntarily to her bed, Elinor was very ready to adopt Mrs. Jennings’s advice, of sending for the Palmers’ apothecary.
He came, examined his patient, and though encouraging Miss Dashwood to expect that a very few days would restore her sister to health, yet, by pronouncing her disorder to have a putrid tendency, and allowing the word “infection” to pass his lips, gave instant alarm to Mrs. Palmer, on her baby’s account. Mrs. Jennings, who had been inclined from the first to think Marianne’s complaint more serious than Elinor, now looked very grave on Mr. Harris’s report, and confirming Charlotte’s fears and caution, urged the necessity of her immediate removal with her infant; and Mr. Palmer, though treating their apprehensions as idle, found the anxiety and importunity of his wife too great to be withstood. Her departure, therefore, was fixed on; and within an hour after Mr. Harris’s arrival, she set off, with her little boy and his nurse, for the house of a near relation of Mr. Palmer’s, who lived a few miles on the other side of Bath; whither her husband promised, at her earnest entreaty, to join her in a day or two; and whither she was almost equally urgent with her mother to accompany her. Mrs. Jennings, however, with a kindness of heart which made Elinor really love her, declared her resolution of not stirring from Cleveland as long as Marianne remained ill, and of endeavouring, by her own attentive care, to supply to her the place of the mother she had taken her from; and Elinor found her on every occasion a most willing and active helpmate, desirous to share in all her fatigues, and often by her better experience in nursing, of material use.
Poor Marianne, languid and low from the nature of her malady, and feeling herself universally ill, could no longer hope that tomorrow would find her recovered; and the idea of what tomorrow would have produced, but for this unlucky illness, made every ailment severe; for on that day they were to have begun their journey home; and, attended the whole way by a servant of Mrs. Jennings, were to have taken their mother by surprise on the following forenoon. The little she said was all in lamentation of this inevitable delay; though Elinor tried to raise her spirits, and make her believe, as she THEN really believed herself, that it would be a very short one.
The next day produced little or no alteration in the state of the patient; she certainly was not better, and, except that there was no amendment, did not appear worse. Their party was now farther reduced; for Mr. Palmer, though very unwilling to go as well from real humanity and good-nature, as from a dislike of appearing to be frightened away by his wife, was persuaded at last by Colonel Brandon to perform his promise of following her; and while he was preparing to go, Colonel Brandon himself, with a much greater exertion, began to talk of going likewise.–Here, however, the kindness of Mrs. Jennings interposed most acceptably; for to send the Colonel away while his love was in so much uneasiness on her sister’s account, would be to deprive them both, she thought, of every comfort; and therefore telling him at once that his stay at Cleveland was necessary to herself, that she should want him to play at piquet of an evening, while Miss Dashwood was above with her sister, &c. she urged him so strongly to remain, that he, who was gratifying the first wish of his own heart by a compliance, could not long even affect to demur; especially as Mrs. Jennings’s entreaty was warmly seconded by Mr. Palmer, who seemed to feel a relief to himself, in leaving behind him a person so well able to assist or advise Miss Dashwood in any emergence.
Marianne was, of course, kept in ignorance of all these arrangements. She knew not that she had been the means of sending the owners of Cleveland away, in about seven days from the time of their arrival. It gave her no surprise that she saw nothing of Mrs. Palmer; and as it gave her likewise no concern, she never mentioned her name.
Two days passed away from the time of Mr. Palmer’s departure, and her situation continued, with little variation, the same. Mr. Harris, who attended her every day, still talked boldly of a speedy recovery, and Miss Dashwood was equally sanguine; but the expectation of the others was by no means so cheerful. Mrs. Jennings had determined very early in the seizure that Marianne would never get over it, and Colonel Brandon, who was chiefly of use in listening to Mrs. Jennings’s forebodings, was not in a state of mind to resist their influence. He tried to reason himself out of fears, which the different judgment of the apothecary seemed to render absurd; but the many hours of each day in which he was left entirely alone, were but too favourable for the admission of every melancholy idea, and he could not expel from his mind the persuasion that he should see Marianne no more.
On the morning of the third day however, the gloomy anticipations of both were almost done away; for when Mr. Harris arrived, he declared his patient materially better. Her pulse was much stronger, and every symptom more favourable than on the preceding visit. Elinor, confirmed in every pleasant hope, was all cheerfulness; rejoicing that in her letters to her mother, she had pursued her own judgment rather than her friend’s, in making very light of the indisposition which delayed them at Cleveland; and almost fixing on the time when Marianne would be able to travel.
But the day did not close so auspiciously as it began.– Towards the evening Marianne became ill again, growing more heavy, restless, and uncomfortable than before. Her sister, however, still sanguine, was willing to