Sense and sensibility, p.12
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.12
 

           Jane Austen

  CHAPTER X

  Marianne's preserver, as Margaret, with more elegance than precision,styled Willoughby, called at the cottage early the next morning tomake his personal enquiries. He was received by Mrs. Dashwood withmore than politeness; with a kindness which Sir John's account of himand her own gratitude prompted; and every thing that passed during thevisit tended to assure him of the sense, elegance, mutual affection,and domestic comfort of the family to whom accident had now introducedhim. Of their personal charms he had not required a second interviewto be convinced.

  Miss Dashwood had a delicate complexion, regular features, and aremarkably pretty figure. Marianne was still handsomer. Her form,though not so correct as her sister's, in having the advantage ofheight, was more striking; and her face was so lovely, that when inthe common cant of praise, she was called a beautiful girl, truth wasless violently outraged than usually happens. Her skin was very brown,but, from its transparency, her complexion was uncommonly brilliant;her features were all good; her smile was sweet and attractive; and inher eyes, which were very dark, there was a life, a spirit, aneagerness, which could hardily be seen without delight. FromWilloughby their expression was at first held back, by theembarrassment which the remembrance of his assistance created. Butwhen this passed away, when her spirits became collected, when she sawthat to the perfect good-breeding of the gentleman, he unitedfrankness and vivacity, and above all, when she heard him declare,that of music and dancing he was passionately fond, she gave him sucha look of approbation as secured the largest share of his discourse toherself for the rest of his stay.

  It was only necessary to mention any favourite amusement to engage herto talk. She could not be silent when such points were introduced, andshe had neither shyness nor reserve in their discussion. They speedilydiscovered that their enjoyment of dancing and music was mutual, andthat it arose from a general conformity of judgment in all thatrelated to either. Encouraged by this to a further examination of hisopinions, she proceeded to question him on the subject of books; herfavourite authors were brought forward and dwelt upon with sorapturous a delight, that any young man of five and twenty must havebeen insensible indeed, not to become an immediate convert to theexcellence of such works, however disregarded before. Their taste wasstrikingly alike. The same books, the same passages were idolized byeach; or if any difference appeared, any objection arose, it lasted nolonger than till the force of her arguments and the brightness of hereyes could be displayed. He acquiesced in all her decisions, caughtall her enthusiasm; and long before his visit concluded, theyconversed with the familiarity of a long-established acquaintance.

  "Well, Marianne," said Elinor, as soon as he had left them, "for _one_morning I think you have done pretty well. You have alreadyascertained Mr. Willoughby's opinion in almost every matter ofimportance. You know what he thinks of Cowper and Scott; you arecertain of his estimating their beauties as he ought, and you havereceived every assurance of his admiring Pope no more than is proper.But how is your acquaintance to be long supported, under suchextraordinary despatch of every subject for discourse? You will soonhave exhausted each favourite topic. Another meeting will suffice toexplain his sentiments on picturesque beauty, and second marriages,and then you can have nothing farther to ask."

  "Elinor," cried Marianne, "is this fair? is this just? are my ideas soscanty? But I see what you mean. I have been too much at my ease, toohappy, too frank. I have erred against every common-place notion ofdecorum; I have been open and sincere where I ought to have beenreserved, spiritless, dull, and deceitful:--had I talked only of theweather and the roads, and had I spoken only once in ten minutes, thisreproach would have been spared."

  "My love," said her mother, "you must not be offended with Elinor--shewas only in jest. I should scold her myself, if she were capable ofwishing to check the delight of your conversation with our newfriend." Marianne was softened in a moment.

  Willoughby, on his side, gave every proof of his pleasure in theiracquaintance, which an evident wish of improving it could offer. Hecame to them every day. To enquire after Marianne was at first hisexcuse; but the encouragement of his reception, to which every daygave greater kindness, made such an excuse unnecessary before it hadceased to be possible, by Marianne's perfect recovery. She wasconfined for some days to the house; but never had any confinementbeen less irksome. Willoughby was a young man of good abilities, quickimagination, lively spirits, and open, affectionate manners. He wasexactly formed to engage Marianne's heart, for with all this, hejoined not only a captivating person, but a natural ardour of mindwhich was now roused and increased by the example of her own, andwhich recommended him to her affection beyond every thing else.

  His society became gradually her most exquisite enjoyment. They read,they talked, they sang together; his musical talents wereconsiderable; and he read with all the sensibility and spirit whichEdward had unfortunately wanted.

  In Mrs. Dashwood's estimation he was as faultless as in Marianne's;and Elinor saw nothing to censure in him but a propensity, in which hestrongly resembled and peculiarly delighted her sister, of saying toomuch what he thought on every occasion, without attention to personsor circumstances. In hastily forming and giving his opinion of otherpeople, in sacrificing general politeness to the enjoyment ofundivided attention where his heart was engaged, and in slighting tooeasily the forms of worldly propriety, he displayed a want of cautionwhich Elinor could not approve, in spite of all that he and Mariannecould say in its support.

  Marianne began now to perceive that the desperation which had seizedher at sixteen and a half, of ever seeing a man who could satisfy herideas of perfection, had been rash and unjustifiable. Willoughby wasall that her fancy had delineated in that unhappy hour and in everybrighter period, as capable of attaching her; and his behaviourdeclared his wishes to be in that respect as earnest, as his abilitieswere strong.

  _They sang together._]

  Her mother too, in whose mind not one speculative thought of theirmarriage had been raised, by his prospect of riches, was led beforethe end of a week to hope and expect it; and secretly to congratulateherself on having gained two such sons-in-law as Edward andWilloughby.

  Colonel Brandon's partiality for Marianne, which had soearly been discovered by his friends, now first became perceptible toElinor, when it ceased to be noticed by them. Their attention and witwere drawn off to his more fortunate rival; and the raillery which theother had incurred before any partiality arose, was removed when hisfeelings began really to call for the ridicule so justly annexed tosensibility. Elinor was obliged, though unwillingly, to believe thatthe sentiments which Mrs. Jennings had assigned him for her ownsatisfaction, were now actually excited by her sister; and thathowever a general resemblance of disposition between the parties mightforward the affection of Mr. Willoughby, an equally strikingopposition of character was no hindrance to the regard of ColonelBrandon. She saw it with concern; for what could a silent man of fiveand thirty hope, when opposed to a very lively one of five and twenty?and as she could not even wish him successful, she heartily wished himindifferent. She liked him--in spite of his gravity and reserve, shebeheld in him an object of interest. His manners, though serious, weremild; and his reserve appeared rather the result of some oppression ofspirits than of any natural gloominess of temper. Sir John had droppedhints of past injuries and disappointments, which justified her beliefof his being an unfortunate man, and she regarded him with respect andcompassion.

  Perhaps she pitied and esteemed him the more because he was slightedby Willoughby and Marianne, who, prejudiced against him for beingneither lively nor young, seemed resolved to undervalue his merits.

  "Brandon is just the kind of man," said Willoughby one day, when theywere talking of him together, "whom every body speaks well of, andnobody cares about; whom all are delighted to see, and nobodyremembers to talk to."

  "That is exactly what I think of him," cried Marianne.

  "Do not boast of it, however," said Elinor, "for it is injustice in
both of you. He is highly esteemed by all the family at the park, andI never see him myself without taking pains to converse with him."

  "That he is patronised by _you_," replied Willoughby, "is certainly inhis favour; but as for the esteem of the others, it is a reproach initself. Who would submit to the indignity of being approved by such awoman as Lady Middleton and Mrs. Jennings, that could command theindifference of any body else?"

  "But perhaps the abuse of such people as yourself and Marianne willmake amends for the regard of Lady Middleton and her mother. If theirpraise is censure, your censure may be praise, for they are not moreundiscerning, than you are prejudiced and unjust."

  "In defence of your _protege_ you can even be saucy."

  "My _protege_, as you call him, is a sensible man; and sense willalways have attractions for me. Yes, Marianne, even in a man betweenthirty and forty. He has seen a great deal of the world; has beenabroad, has read, and has a thinking mind. I have found him capable ofgiving me much information on various subjects; and he has alwaysanswered my inquiries with readiness of good-breeding and goodnature."

  "That is to say," cried Marianne contemptuously, "he has told you,that in the East Indies the climate is hot, and the mosquitoes aretroublesome."

  "He _would_ have told me so, I doubt not, had I made any suchinquiries, but they happened to be points on which I had beenpreviously informed."

  "Perhaps," said Willoughby, "his observations may have extended to theexistence of nabobs, gold mohrs, and palanquins."

  "I may venture to say that _his_ observations have stretched muchfurther than _your_ candour. But why should you dislike him?"

  "I do not dislike him. I consider him, on the contrary, as a veryrespectable man, who has every body's good word, and nobody's notice;who, has more money than he can spend, more time than he knows how toemploy, and two new coats every year."

  "Add to which," cried Marianne, "that he has neither genius, taste,nor spirit. That his understanding has no brilliancy, his feelings noardour, and his voice no expression."

  "You decide on his imperfections so much in the mass," replied Elinor,"and so much on the strength of your own imagination, that thecommendation I am able to give of him is comparatively cold andinsipid. I can only pronounce him to be a sensible man, well-bred,well-informed, of gentle address, and, I believe, possessing anamiable heart."

  "Miss Dashwood," cried Willoughby, "you are now using me unkindly. Youare endeavouring to disarm me by reason, and to convince me against mywill. But it will not do. You shall find me as stubborn as you can beartful. I have three unanswerable reasons for disliking ColonelBrandon; he threatened me with rain when I wanted it to be fine; hehas found fault with the hanging of my curricle, and I cannot persuadehim to buy my brown mare. If it will be any satisfaction to you,however, to be told, that I believe his character to be in otherrespects irreproachable, I am ready to confess it. And in return foran acknowledgment, which must give me some pain, you cannot deny methe privilege of disliking him as much as ever."

 
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