Part 5 - Sense and Sensibility Audiobook by Jane Austen (Chs 43-50)


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SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen (1811)
Chapter 43
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 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, cried out,--
"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 led 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.
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SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen (1811)
Chapter 44
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 the subject."
"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!"
He stopped.
"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 it worse."
"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;--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.
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen (1811)
Chapter 45
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 smile.
"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 in HIM."
"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.
>
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen (1811)
Chapter 46
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 me to"--
"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 whom 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.
>
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen (1811)
Chapter 47
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
fancy astray.
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 him selfish?"
"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, immediately continued,
"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 his measures.
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 for talking."
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.
>
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen (1811)
Chapter 48
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 or indolent. "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.
Another pause. 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. ROBERT Ferrars."
"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 never cease.
Edward, who had till then looked any where, rather than at her, saw her hurry away, and
perhaps saw--or even heard, her emotion; for immediately afterwards he fell into a
reverie, which no remarks, no inquiries, no
affectionate address of Mrs. Dashwood could penetrate, and at last, without saying a
word, quitted the room, and walked out towards the village--leaving the others in
the greatest astonishment and perplexity on
a change in his situation, so wonderful and so sudden;--a perplexity which they had no
means of lessening but by their own conjectures.
>
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen (1811)
Chapter 49
Unaccountable, however, as the circumstances of his release might appear
to the whole family, it was certain that Edward was free; and to what purpose that
freedom would be employed was easily pre-
determined by all;--for after experiencing the blessings of ONE imprudent engagement,
contracted without his mother's consent, as he had already done for more than four
years, nothing less could be expected of
him in the failure of THAT, than the immediate contraction of another.
His errand at Barton, in fact, was a simple one.
It was only to ask Elinor to marry him;-- and considering that he was not altogether
inexperienced in such a question, it might be strange that he should feel so
uncomfortable in the present case as he
really did, so much in need of encouragement and fresh air.
How soon he had walked himself into the proper resolution, however, how soon an
opportunity of exercising it occurred, in what manner he expressed himself, and how
he was received, need not be particularly told.
This only need be said;--that when they all sat down to table at four o'clock, about
three hours after his arrival, he had secured his lady, engaged her mother's
consent, and was not only in the rapturous
profession of the lover, but, in the reality of reason and truth, one of the
happiest of men. His situation indeed was more than commonly
joyful.
He had more than the ordinary triumph of accepted love to swell his heart, and raise
his spirits.
He was released without any reproach to himself, from an entanglement which had
long formed his misery, from a woman whom he had long ceased to love;--and elevated
at once to that security with another,
which he must have thought of almost with despair, as soon as he had learnt to
consider it with desire.
He was brought, not from doubt or suspense, but from misery to happiness;--and the
change was openly spoken in such a genuine, flowing, grateful cheerfulness, as his
friends had never witnessed in him before.
His heart was now open to Elinor, all its weaknesses, all its errors confessed, and
his first boyish attachment to Lucy treated with all the philosophic dignity of twenty-
four.
"It was a foolish, idle inclination on my side," said he, "the consequence of
ignorance of the world--and want of employment.
Had my brother given me some active profession when I was removed at eighteen
from the care of Mr. Pratt, I think--nay, I am sure, it would never have happened; for
though I left Longstaple with what I
thought, at the time, a most unconquerable preference for his niece, yet had I then
had any pursuit, any object to engage my time and keep me at a distance from her for
a few months, I should very soon have
outgrown the fancied attachment, especially by mixing more with the world, as in such
case I must have done.
But instead of having any thing to do, instead of having any profession chosen for
me, or being allowed to chuse any myself, I returned home to be completely idle; and
for the first twelvemonth afterwards I had
not even the nominal employment, which belonging to the university would have
given me; for I was not entered at Oxford till I was nineteen.
I had therefore nothing in the world to do, but to fancy myself in love; and as my
mother did not make my home in every respect comfortable, as I had no friend, no
companion in my brother, and disliked new
acquaintance, it was not unnatural for me to be very often at Longstaple, where I
always felt myself at home, and was always sure of a welcome; and accordingly I spent
the greatest part of my time there from
eighteen to nineteen: Lucy appeared everything that was amiable and obliging.
She was pretty too--at least I thought so THEN; and I had seen so little of other
women, that I could make no comparisons, and see no defects.
Considering everything, therefore, I hope, foolish as our engagement was, foolish as
it has since in every way been proved, it was not at the time an unnatural or an
inexcusable piece of folly."
The change which a few hours had wrought in the minds and the happiness of the
Dashwoods, was such--so great--as promised them all, the satisfaction of a sleepless
night.
Mrs. Dashwood, too happy to be comfortable, knew not how to love Edward, nor praise
Elinor enough, how to be enough thankful for his release without wounding his
delicacy, nor how at once to give them
leisure for unrestrained conversation together, and yet enjoy, as she wished, the
sight and society of both. Marianne could speak HER happiness only by
tears.
Comparisons would occur--regrets would arise;--and her joy, though sincere as her
love for her sister, was of a kind to give her neither spirits nor language.
But Elinor--how are HER feelings to be described?--From the moment of learning
that Lucy was married to another, that Edward was free, to the moment of his
justifying the hopes which had so instantly
followed, she was every thing by turns but tranquil.
But when the second moment had passed, when she found every doubt, every solicitude
removed, compared her situation with what so lately it had been,--saw him honourably
released from his former engagement, saw
him instantly profiting by the release, to address herself and declare an affection as
tender, as constant as she had ever supposed it to be,--she was oppressed, she
was overcome by her own felicity;--and
happily disposed as is the human mind to be easily familiarized with any change for the
better, it required several hours to give sedateness to her spirits, or any degree of
tranquillity to her heart.
Edward was now fixed at the cottage at least for a week;--for whatever other
claims might be made on him, it was impossible that less than a week should be
given up to the enjoyment of Elinor's
company, or suffice to say half that was to be said of the past, the present, and the
future;--for though a very few hours spent in the hard labor of incessant talking will
despatch more subjects than can really be
in common between any two rational creatures, yet with lovers it is different.
Between THEM no subject is finished, no communication is even made, till it has
been made at least twenty times over.
Lucy's marriage, the unceasing and reasonable wonder among them all, formed of
course one of the earliest discussions of the lovers;--and Elinor's particular
knowledge of each party made it appear to
her in every view, as one of the most extraordinary and unaccountable
circumstances she had ever heard.
How they could be thrown together, and by what attraction Robert could be drawn on to
marry a girl, of whose beauty she had herself heard him speak without any
admiration,--a girl too already engaged to
his brother, and on whose account that brother had been thrown off by his family--
it was beyond her comprehension to make out.
To her own heart it was a delightful affair, to her imagination it was even a
ridiculous one, but to her reason, her judgment, it was completely a puzzle.
Edward could only attempt an explanation by supposing, that, perhaps, at first
accidentally meeting, the vanity of the one had been so worked on by the flattery of
the other, as to lead by degrees to all the rest.
Elinor remembered what Robert had told her in Harley Street, of his opinion of what
his own mediation in his brother's affairs might have done, if applied to in time.
She repeated it to Edward.
"THAT was exactly like Robert,"--was his immediate observation.--"And THAT," he
presently added, "might perhaps be in HIS head when the acquaintance between them
first began.
And Lucy perhaps at first might think only of procuring his good offices in my favour.
Other designs might afterward arise."
How long it had been carrying on between them, however, he was equally at a loss
with herself to make out; for at Oxford, where he had remained for choice ever since
his quitting London, he had had no means of
hearing of her but from herself, and her letters to the very last were neither less
frequent, nor less affectionate than usual.
Not the smallest suspicion, therefore, had ever occurred to prepare him for what
followed;--and when at last it burst on him in a letter from Lucy herself, he had been
for some time, he believed, half stupified
between the wonder, the horror, and the joy of such a deliverance.
He put the letter into Elinor's hands.
"DEAR SIR,
"Being very sure I have long lost your affections, I have thought myself at
liberty to bestow my own on another, and have no doubt of being as happy with him as
I once used to think I might be with you;
but I scorn to accept a hand while the heart was another's.
Sincerely wish you happy in your choice, and it shall not be my fault if we are not
always good friends, as our near relationship now makes proper.
I can safely say I owe you no ill-will, and am sure you will be too generous to do us
any ill offices.
Your brother has gained my affections entirely, and as we could not live without
one another, we are just returned from the altar, and are now on our way to Dawlish
for a few weeks, which place your dear
brother has great curiosity to see, but thought I would first trouble you with
these few lines, and shall always remain, "Your sincere well-wisher, friend, and
sister, "LUCY FERRARS.
"I have burnt all your letters, and will return your picture the first opportunity.
Please to destroy my scrawls--but the ring with my hair you are very welcome to keep."
Elinor read and returned it without any comment.
"I will not ask your opinion of it as a composition," said Edward.--"For worlds
would not I have had a letter of hers seen by YOU in former days.--In a sister it is
bad enough, but in a wife!--how I have
blushed over the pages of her writing!--and I believe I may say that since the first
half year of our foolish--business--this is the only letter I ever received from her,
of which the substance made me any amends for the defect of the style."
"However it may have come about," said Elinor, after a pause,--"they are certainly
married.
And your mother has brought on herself a most appropriate punishment.
The independence she settled on Robert, through resentment against you, has put it
in his power to make his own choice; and she has actually been bribing one son with
a thousand a-year, to do the very deed
which she disinherited the other for intending to do.
She will hardly be less hurt, I suppose, by Robert's marrying Lucy, than she would have
been by your marrying her."
"She will be more hurt by it, for Robert always was her favourite.--She will be more
hurt by it, and on the same principle will forgive him much sooner."
In what state the affair stood at present between them, Edward knew not, for no
communication with any of his family had yet been attempted by him.
He had quitted Oxford within four and twenty hours after Lucy's letter arrived,
and with only one object before him, the nearest road to Barton, had had no leisure
to form any scheme of conduct, with which
that road did not hold the most intimate connection.
He could do nothing till he were assured of his fate with Miss Dashwood; and by his
rapidity in seeking THAT fate, it is to be supposed, in spite of the jealousy with
which he had once thought of Colonel
Brandon, in spite of the modesty with which he rated his own deserts, and the
politeness with which he talked of his doubts, he did not, upon the whole, expect
a very cruel reception.
It was his business, however, to say that he DID, and he said it very prettily.
What he might say on the subject a twelvemonth after, must be referred to the
imagination of husbands and wives.
That Lucy had certainly meant to deceive, to go off with a flourish of malice against
him in her message by Thomas, was perfectly clear to Elinor; and Edward himself, now
thoroughly enlightened on her character,
had no scruple in believing her capable of the utmost meanness of wanton ill-nature.
Though his eyes had been long opened, even before his acquaintance with Elinor began,
to her ignorance and a want of liberality in some of her opinions--they had been
equally imputed, by him, to her want of
education; and till her last letter reached him, he had always believed her to be a
well-disposed, good-hearted girl, and thoroughly attached to himself.
Nothing but such a persuasion could have prevented his putting an end to an
engagement, which, long before the discovery of it laid him open to his
mother's anger, had been a continual source of disquiet and regret to him.
"I thought it my duty," said he, "independent of my feelings, to give her
the option of continuing the engagement or not, when I was renounced by my mother, and
stood to all appearance without a friend in the world to assist me.
In such a situation as that, where there seemed nothing to tempt the avarice or the
vanity of any living creature, how could I suppose, when she so earnestly, so warmly
insisted on sharing my fate, whatever it
might be, that any thing but the most disinterested affection was her inducement?
And even now, I cannot comprehend on what motive she acted, or what fancied advantage
it could be to her, to be fettered to a man for whom she had not the smallest regard,
and who had only two thousand pounds in the world.
She could not foresee that Colonel Brandon would give me a living."
"No; but she might suppose that something would occur in your favour; that your own
family might in time relent.
And at any rate, she lost nothing by continuing the engagement, for she has
proved that it fettered neither her inclination nor her actions.
The connection was certainly a respectable one, and probably gained her consideration
among her friends; and, if nothing more advantageous occurred, it would be better
for her to marry YOU than be single."
Edward was, of course, immediately convinced that nothing could have been more
natural than Lucy's conduct, nor more self- evident than the motive of it.
Elinor scolded him, harshly as ladies always scold the imprudence which
compliments themselves, for having spent so much time with them at Norland, when he
must have felt his own inconstancy.
"Your behaviour was certainly very wrong," said she; "because--to say nothing of my
own conviction, our relations were all led away by it to fancy and expect WHAT, as you
were THEN situated, could never be."
He could only plead an ignorance of his own heart, and a mistaken confidence in the
force of his engagement.
"I was simple enough to think, that because my FAITH was plighted to another, there
could be no danger in my being with you; and that the consciousness of my engagement
was to keep my heart as safe and sacred as my honour.
I felt that I admired you, but I told myself it was only friendship; and till I
began to make comparisons between yourself and Lucy, I did not know how far I was got.
After that, I suppose, I WAS wrong in remaining so much in Sussex, and the
arguments with which I reconciled myself to the expediency of it, were no better than
these:--The danger is my own; I am doing no injury to anybody but myself."
Elinor smiled, and shook her head.
Edward heard with pleasure of Colonel Brandon's being expected at the Cottage, as
he really wished not only to be better acquainted with him, but to have an
opportunity of convincing him that he no
longer resented his giving him the living of Delaford--"Which, at present," said he,
"after thanks so ungraciously delivered as mine were on the occasion, he must think I
have never forgiven him for offering."
NOW he felt astonished himself that he had never yet been to the place.
But so little interest had he taken in the matter, that he owed all his knowledge of
the house, garden, and glebe, extent of the parish, condition of the land, and rate of
the tithes, to Elinor herself, who had
heard so much of it from Colonel Brandon, and heard it with so much attention, as to
be entirely mistress of the subject.
One question after this only remained undecided, between them, one difficulty
only was to be overcome.
They were brought together by mutual affection, with the warmest approbation of
their real friends; their intimate knowledge of each other seemed to make
their happiness certain--and they only wanted something to live upon.
Edward had two thousand pounds, and Elinor one, which, with Delaford living, was all
that they could call their own; for it was impossible that Mrs. Dashwood should
advance anything; and they were neither of
them quite enough in love to think that three hundred and fifty pounds a-year would
supply them with the comforts of life.
Edward was not entirely without hopes of some favourable change in his mother
towards him; and on THAT he rested for the residue of their income.
But Elinor had no such dependence; for since Edward would still be unable to marry
Miss Morton, and his chusing herself had been spoken of in Mrs. Ferrars's flattering
language as only a lesser evil than his
chusing Lucy Steele, she feared that Robert's offence would serve no other
purpose than to enrich Fanny.
About four days after Edward's arrival Colonel Brandon appeared, to complete Mrs.
Dashwood's satisfaction, and to give her the dignity of having, for the first time
since her living at Barton, more company with her than her house would hold.
Edward was allowed to retain the privilege of first comer, and Colonel Brandon
therefore walked every night to his old quarters at the Park; from whence he
usually returned in the morning, early
enough to interrupt the lovers' first tete- a-tete before breakfast.
A three weeks' residence at Delaford, where, in his evening hours at least, he
had little to do but to calculate the disproportion between thirty-six and
seventeen, brought him to Barton in a
temper of mind which needed all the improvement in Marianne's looks, all the
kindness of her welcome, and all the encouragement of her mother's language, to
make it cheerful.
Among such friends, however, and such flattery, he did revive.
No rumour of Lucy's marriage had yet reached him:--he knew nothing of what had
passed; and the first hours of his visit were consequently spent in hearing and in
wondering.
Every thing was explained to him by Mrs. Dashwood, and he found fresh reason to
rejoice in what he had done for Mr. Ferrars, since eventually it promoted the
interest of Elinor.
It would be needless to say, that the gentlemen advanced in the good opinion of
each other, as they advanced in each other's acquaintance, for it could not be
otherwise.
Their resemblance in good principles and good sense, in disposition and manner of
thinking, would probably have been sufficient to unite them in friendship,
without any other attraction; but their
being in love with two sisters, and two sisters fond of each other, made that
mutual regard inevitable and immediate, which might otherwise have waited the
effect of time and judgment.
The letters from town, which a few days before would have made every nerve in
Elinor's body thrill with transport, now arrived to be read with less emotion than
mirth.
Mrs. Jennings wrote to tell the wonderful tale, to vent her honest indignation
against the jilting girl, and pour forth her compassion towards poor Mr. Edward,
who, she was sure, had quite doted upon the
worthless hussy, and was now, by all accounts, almost broken-hearted, at
Oxford.-- "I do think," she continued, "nothing was ever carried on so sly; for it
was but two days before Lucy called and sat a couple of hours with me.
Not a soul suspected anything of the matter, not even Nancy, who, poor soul!
came crying to me the day after, in a great fright for fear of Mrs. Ferrars, as well as
not knowing how to get to Plymouth; for
Lucy it seems borrowed all her money before she went off to be married, on purpose we
suppose to make a show with, and poor Nancy had not seven shillings in the world;--so I
was very glad to give her five guineas to
take her down to Exeter, where she thinks of staying three or four weeks with Mrs.
Burgess, in hopes, as I tell her, to fall in with the Doctor again.
And I must say that Lucy's crossness not to take them along with them in the chaise is
worse than all. Poor Mr. Edward!
I cannot get him out of my head, but you must send for him to Barton, and Miss
Marianne must try to comfort him." Mr. Dashwood's strains were more solemn.
Mrs. Ferrars was the most unfortunate of women--poor Fanny had suffered agonies of
sensibility--and he considered the existence of each, under such a blow, with
grateful wonder.
Robert's offence was unpardonable, but Lucy's was infinitely worse.
Neither of them were ever again to be mentioned to Mrs. Ferrars; and even, if she
might hereafter be induced to forgive her son, his wife should never be acknowledged
as her daughter, nor be permitted to appear in her presence.
The secrecy with which everything had been carried on between them, was rationally
treated as enormously heightening the crime, because, had any suspicion of it
occurred to the others, proper measures
would have been taken to prevent the marriage; and he called on Elinor to join
with him in regretting that Lucy's engagement with Edward had not rather been
fulfilled, than that she should thus be the
means of spreading misery farther in the family.-- He thus continued:
"Mrs. Ferrars has never yet mentioned Edward's name, which does not surprise us;
but, to our great astonishment, not a line has been received from him on the occasion.
Perhaps, however, he is kept silent by his fear of offending, and I shall, therefore,
give him a hint, by a line to Oxford, that his sister and I both think a letter of
proper submission from him, addressed
perhaps to Fanny, and by her shewn to her mother, might not be taken amiss; for we
all know the tenderness of Mrs. Ferrars's heart, and that she wishes for nothing so
much as to be on good terms with her children."
This paragraph was of some importance to the prospects and conduct of Edward.
It determined him to attempt a reconciliation, though not exactly in the
manner pointed out by their brother and sister.
"A letter of proper submission!" repeated he; "would they have me beg my mother's
pardon for Robert's ingratitude to HER, and breach of honour to ME?--I can make no
submission--I am grown neither humble nor
penitent by what has passed.--I am grown very happy; but that would not interest.--I
know of no submission that IS proper for me to make."
"You may certainly ask to be forgiven," said Elinor, "because you have offended;--
and I should think you might NOW venture so far as to profess some concern for having
ever formed the engagement which drew on you your mother's anger."
He agreed that he might.
"And when she has forgiven you, perhaps a little humility may be convenient while
acknowledging a second engagement, almost as imprudent in HER eyes as the first."
He had nothing to urge against it, but still resisted the idea of a letter of
proper submission; and therefore, to make it easier to him, as he declared a much
greater willingness to make mean
concessions by word of mouth than on paper, it was resolved that, instead of writing to
Fanny, he should go to London, and personally intreat her good offices in his
favour.-- "And if they really DO interest
themselves," said Marianne, in her new character of candour, "in bringing about a
reconciliation, I shall think that even John and Fanny are not entirely without
merit."
After a visit on Colonel Brandon's side of only three or four days, the two gentlemen
quitted Barton together.-- They were to go immediately to Delaford, that Edward might
have some personal knowledge of his future
home, and assist his patron and friend in deciding on what improvements were needed
to it; and from thence, after staying there a couple of nights, he was to proceed on
his journey to town.
>
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY by Jane Austen (1811)
Chapter 50
After a proper resistance on the part of Mrs. Ferrars, just so violent and so steady
as to preserve her from that reproach which she always seemed fearful of incurring, the
reproach of being too amiable, Edward was
admitted to her presence, and pronounced to be again her son.
Her family had of late been exceedingly fluctuating.
For many years of her life she had had two sons; but the crime and annihilation of
Edward a few weeks ago, had robbed her of one; the similar annihilation of Robert had
left her for a fortnight without any; and
now, by the resuscitation of Edward, she had one again.
In spite of his being allowed once more to live, however, he did not feel the
continuance of his existence secure, till he had revealed his present engagement; for
the publication of that circumstance, he
feared, might give a sudden turn to his constitution, and carry him off as rapidly
as before.
With apprehensive caution therefore it was revealed, and he was listened to with
unexpected calmness.
Mrs. Ferrars at first reasonably endeavoured to dissuade him from marrying
Miss Dashwood, by every argument in her power;--told him, that in Miss Morton he
would have a woman of higher rank and
larger fortune;--and enforced the assertion, by observing that Miss Morton
was the daughter of a nobleman with thirty thousand pounds, while Miss Dashwood was
only the daughter of a private gentleman
with no more than THREE; but when she found that, though perfectly admitting the truth
of her representation, he was by no means inclined to be guided by it, she judged it
wisest, from the experience of the past, to
submit--and therefore, after such an ungracious delay as she owed to her own
dignity, and as served to prevent every suspicion of good-will, she issued her
decree of consent to the marriage of Edward and Elinor.
What she would engage to do towards augmenting their income was next to be
considered; and here it plainly appeared, that though Edward was now her only son, he
was by no means her eldest; for while
Robert was inevitably endowed with a thousand pounds a-year, not the smallest
objection was made against Edward's taking orders for the sake of two hundred and
fifty at the utmost; nor was anything
promised either for the present or in future, beyond the ten thousand pounds,
which had been given with Fanny.
It was as much, however, as was desired, and more than was expected, by Edward and
Elinor; and Mrs. Ferrars herself, by her shuffling excuses, seemed the only person
surprised at her not giving more.
With an income quite sufficient to their wants thus secured to them, they had
nothing to wait for after Edward was in possession of the living, but the readiness
of the house, to which Colonel Brandon,
with an eager desire for the accommodation of Elinor, was making considerable
improvements; and after waiting some time for their completion, after experiencing,
as usual, a thousand disappointments and
delays from the unaccountable dilatoriness of the workmen, Elinor, as usual, broke
through the first positive resolution of not marrying till every thing was ready,
and the ceremony took place in Barton church early in the autumn.
The first month after their marriage was spent with their friend at the Mansion-
house; from whence they could superintend the progress of the Parsonage, and direct
every thing as they liked on the spot;--
could chuse papers, project shrubberies, and invent a sweep.
Mrs. Jennings's prophecies, though rather jumbled together, were chiefly fulfilled;
for she was able to visit Edward and his wife in their Parsonage by Michaelmas, and
she found in Elinor and her husband, as she
really believed, one of the happiest couples in the world.
They had in fact nothing to wish for, but the marriage of Colonel Brandon and
Marianne, and rather better pasturage for their cows.
They were visited on their first settling by almost all their relations and friends.
Mrs. Ferrars came to inspect the happiness which she was almost ashamed of having
authorised; and even the Dashwoods were at the expense of a journey from Sussex to do
them honour.
"I will not say that I am disappointed, my dear sister," said John, as they were
walking together one morning before the gates of Delaford House, "THAT would be
saying too much, for certainly you have
been one of the most fortunate young women in the world, as it is.
But, I confess, it would give me great pleasure to call Colonel Brandon brother.
His property here, his place, his house, every thing is in such respectable and
excellent condition!--and his woods!--I have not seen such timber any where in
Dorsetshire, as there is now standing in
Delaford Hanger!--And though, perhaps, Marianne may not seem exactly the person to
attract him--yet I think it would altogether be advisable for you to have
them now frequently staying with you, for
as Colonel Brandon seems a great deal at home, nobody can tell what may happen--for,
when people are much thrown together, and see little of anybody else--and it will
always be in your power to set her off to
advantage, and so forth;--in short, you may as well give her a chance--You understand
me."--
But though Mrs. Ferrars DID come to see them, and always treated them with the
make-believe of decent affection, they were never insulted by her real favour and
preference.
THAT was due to the folly of Robert, and the cunning of his wife; and it was earned
by them before many months had passed away.
The selfish sagacity of the latter, which had at first drawn Robert into the scrape,
was the principal instrument of his deliverance from it; for her respectful
humility, assiduous attentions, and endless
flatteries, as soon as the smallest opening was given for their exercise, reconciled
Mrs. Ferrars to his choice, and re- established him completely in her favour.
The whole of Lucy's behaviour in the affair, and the prosperity which crowned
it, therefore, may be held forth as a most encouraging instance of what an earnest, an
unceasing attention to self-interest,
however its progress may be apparently obstructed, will do in securing every
advantage of fortune, with no other sacrifice than that of time and conscience.
When Robert first sought her acquaintance, and privately visited her in Bartlett's
Buildings, it was only with the view imputed to him by his brother.
He merely meant to persuade her to give up the engagement; and as there could be
nothing to overcome but the affection of both, he naturally expected that one or two
interviews would settle the matter.
In that point, however, and that only, he erred;--for though Lucy soon gave him hopes
that his eloquence would convince her in TIME, another visit, another conversation,
was always wanted to produce this conviction.
Some doubts always lingered in her mind when they parted, which could only be
removed by another half hour's discourse with himself.
His attendance was by this means secured, and the rest followed in course.
Instead of talking of Edward, they came gradually to talk only of Robert,--a
subject on which he had always more to say than on any other, and in which she soon
betrayed an interest even equal to his own;
and in short, it became speedily evident to both, that he had entirely supplanted his
brother.
He was proud of his conquest, proud of tricking Edward, and very proud of marrying
privately without his mother's consent. What immediately followed is known.
They passed some months in great happiness at Dawlish; for she had many relations and
old acquaintances to cut--and he drew several plans for magnificent cottages;--
and from thence returning to town, procured
the forgiveness of Mrs. Ferrars, by the simple expedient of asking it, which, at
Lucy's instigation, was adopted.
The forgiveness, at first, indeed, as was reasonable, comprehended only Robert; and
Lucy, who had owed his mother no duty and therefore could have transgressed none,
still remained some weeks longer unpardoned.
But perseverance in humility of conduct and messages, in self-condemnation for Robert's
offence, and gratitude for the unkindness she was treated with, procured her in time
the haughty notice which overcame her by
its graciousness, and led soon afterwards, by rapid degrees, to the highest state of
affection and influence.
Lucy became as necessary to Mrs. Ferrars, as either Robert or Fanny; and while Edward
was never cordially forgiven for having once intended to marry her, and Elinor,
though superior to her in fortune and
birth, was spoken of as an intruder, SHE was in every thing considered, and always
openly acknowledged, to be a favourite child.
They settled in town, received very liberal assistance from Mrs. Ferrars, were on the
best terms imaginable with the Dashwoods; and setting aside the jealousies and ill-
will continually subsisting between Fanny
and Lucy, in which their husbands of course took a part, as well as the frequent
domestic disagreements between Robert and Lucy themselves, nothing could exceed the
harmony in which they all lived together.
What Edward had done to forfeit the right of eldest son, might have puzzled many
people to find out; and what Robert had done to succeed to it, might have puzzled
them still more.
It was an arrangement, however, justified in its effects, if not in its cause; for
nothing ever appeared in Robert's style of living or of talking to give a suspicion of
his regretting the extent of his income, as
either leaving his brother too little, or bringing himself too much;--and if Edward
might be judged from the ready discharge of his duties in every particular, from an
increasing attachment to his wife and his
home, and from the regular cheerfulness of his spirits, he might be supposed no less
contented with his lot, no less free from every wish of an exchange.
Elinor's marriage divided her as little from her family as could well be contrived,
without rendering the cottage at Barton entirely useless, for her mother and
sisters spent much more than half their time with her.
Mrs. Dashwood was acting on motives of policy as well as pleasure in the frequency
of her visits at Delaford; for her wish of bringing Marianne and Colonel Brandon
together was hardly less earnest, though
rather more liberal than what John had expressed.
It was now her darling object.
Precious as was the company of her daughter to her, she desired nothing so much as to
give up its constant enjoyment to her valued friend; and to see Marianne settled
at the mansion-house was equally the wish of Edward and Elinor.
They each felt his sorrows, and their own obligations, and Marianne, by general
consent, was to be the reward of all.
With such a confederacy against her--with a knowledge so intimate of his goodness--with
a conviction of his fond attachment to herself, which at last, though long after
it was observable to everybody else--burst on her--what could she do?
Marianne Dashwood was born to an extraordinary fate.
She was born to discover the falsehood of her own opinions, and to counteract, by her
conduct, her most favourite maxims.
She was born to overcome an affection formed so late in life as at seventeen, and
with no sentiment superior to strong esteem and lively friendship, voluntarily to give
her hand to another!--and THAT other, a man
who had suffered no less than herself under the event of a former attachment, whom, two
years before, she had considered too old to be married,--and who still sought the
constitutional safeguard of a flannel waistcoat!
But so it was.
Instead of falling a sacrifice to an irresistible passion, as once she had
fondly flattered herself with expecting,-- instead of remaining even for ever with her
mother, and finding her only pleasures in
retirement and study, as afterwards in her more calm and sober judgment she had
determined on,--she found herself at nineteen, submitting to new attachments,
entering on new duties, placed in a new
home, a wife, the mistress of a family, and the patroness of a village.
Colonel Brandon was now as happy, as all those who best loved him, believed he
deserved to be;--in Marianne he was consoled for every past affliction;--her
regard and her society restored his mind to
animation, and his spirits to cheerfulness; and that Marianne found her own happiness
in forming his, was equally the persuasion and delight of each observing friend.
Marianne could never love by halves; and her whole heart became, in time, as much
devoted to her husband, as it had once been to Willoughby.
Willoughby could not hear of her marriage without a pang; and his punishment was soon
afterwards complete in the voluntary forgiveness of Mrs. Smith, who, by stating
his marriage with a woman of character, as
the source of her clemency, gave him reason for believing that had he behaved with
honour towards Marianne, he might at once have been happy and rich.
That his repentance of misconduct, which thus brought its own punishment, was
sincere, need not be doubted;--nor that he long thought of Colonel Brandon with envy,
and of Marianne with regret.
But that he was for ever inconsolable, that he fled from society, or contracted an
habitual gloom of temper, or died of a broken heart, must not be depended on--for
he did neither.
He lived to exert, and frequently to enjoy himself.
His wife was not always out of humour, nor his home always uncomfortable; and in his
breed of horses and dogs, and in sporting of every kind, he found no inconsiderable
degree of domestic felicity.
For Marianne, however--in spite of his incivility in surviving her loss--he always
retained that decided regard which interested him in every thing that befell
her, and made her his secret standard of
perfection in woman;--and many a rising beauty would be slighted by him in after-
days as bearing no comparison with Mrs. Brandon.
Mrs. Dashwood was prudent enough to remain at the cottage, without attempting a
removal to Delaford; and fortunately for Sir John and Mrs. Jennings, when Marianne
was taken from them, Margaret had reached
an age highly suitable for dancing, and not very ineligible for being supposed to have
a lover.
Between Barton and Delaford, there was that constant communication which strong family
affection would naturally dictate;--and among the merits and the happiness of
Elinor and Marianne, let it not be ranked
as the least considerable, that though sisters, and living almost within sight of
each other, they could live without disagreement between themselves, or
producing coolness between their husbands.
THE END
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