Sense and sensibility, p.13
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.13

          

  CHAPTER XI

  Little had Mrs. Dashwood or her daughters imagined when they firstcame into Devonshire, that so many engagements would arise to occupytheir time as shortly presented themselves, or that they should havesuch frequent invitations and such constant visitors as to leave themlittle leisure for serious employment. Yet such was the case. WhenMarianne was recovered, the schemes of amusement at home and abroad,which Sir John had been previously forming, were put into execution.The private balls at the park then began; and parties on the waterwere made and accomplished as often as a showery October would allow.In every meeting of the kind Willoughby was included; and the ease andfamiliarity which naturally attended these parties were exactlycalculated to give increasing intimacy to his acquaintance with theDashwoods, to afford him opportunity of witnessing the excellencies ofMarianne, of marking his animated admiration of her, and of receiving,in her behaviour to himself, the most pointed assurance of heraffection.

  Elinor could not be surprised at their attachment. She only wishedthat it were less openly shown; and once or twice did venture tosuggest the propriety of some self-command to Marianne. But Marianneabhorred all concealment where no real disgrace could attendunreserve; and to aim at the restraint of sentiments which were not inthemselves illaudable, appeared to her not merely an unnecessaryeffort, but a disgraceful subjection of reason to common-place andmistaken notions. Willoughby thought the same; and their behaviour atall times, was an illustration of their opinions.

  When he was present she had no eyes for any one else. Every thing hedid, was right. Every thing he said, was clever. If their evenings atthe park were concluded with cards, he cheated himself and all therest of the party to get her a good hand. If dancing formed theamusement of the night, they were partners for half the time; and whenobliged to separate for a couple of dances, were careful to standtogether and scarcely spoke a word to any body else. Such conduct madethem of course most exceedingly laughed at; but ridicule could notshame, and seemed hardly to provoke them.

  Mrs. Dashwood entered into all their feelings with a warmth which lefther no inclination for checking this excessive display of them. To herit was but the natural consequence of a strong affection in a youngand ardent mind.

  This was the season of happiness to Marianne. Her heart was devoted toWilloughby, and the fond attachment to Norland, which she brought withher from Sussex, was more likely to be softened than she had thoughtit possible before, by the charms which his society bestowed on herpresent home.

  Elinor's happiness was not so great. Her heart was not so much atease, nor her satisfaction in their amusements so pure. They affordedher no companion that could make amends for what she had left behind,nor that could teach her to think of Norland with less regret thanever. Neither Lady Middleton nor Mrs. Jennings could supply to her theconversation she missed; although the latter was an everlastingtalker, and from the first had regarded her with a kindness whichensured her a large share of her discourse. She had already repeatedher own history to Elinor three or four times; and had Elinor's memorybeen equal to her means of improvement, she might have known veryearly in their acquaintance all the particulars of Mr. Jennings's lastillness, and what he said to his wife a few minutes before he died.Lady Middleton was more agreeable than her mother only in being moresilent. Elinor needed little observation to perceive that her reservewas a mere calmness of manner with which sense had nothing to do.Towards her husband and mother she was the same as to them; andintimacy was therefore neither to be looked for nor desired. She hadnothing to say one day that she had not said the day before. Herinsipidity was invariable, for even her spirits were always the same;and though she did not oppose the parties arranged by her husband,provided every thing were conducted in style and her two eldestchildren attended her, she never appeared to receive more enjoymentfrom them than she might have experienced in sitting at home; and solittle did her presence add to the pleasure of the others, by anyshare in their conversation, that they were sometimes only reminded ofher being amongst them by her solicitude about her troublesome boys.

  In Colonel Brandon alone, of all her new acquaintance, did Elinor finda person who could in any degree claim the respect of abilities,excite the interest of friendship, or give pleasure as a companion.Willoughby was out of the question. Her admiration and regard, evenher sisterly regard, was all his own; but he was a lover; hisattentions were wholly Marianne's, and a far less agreeable man mighthave been more generally pleasing. Colonel Brandon, unfortunately forhimself, had no such encouragement to think only of Marianne, and inconversing with Elinor he found the greatest consolation for theindifference of her sister.

  Elinor's compassion for him increased, as she had reason to suspectthat the misery of disappointed love had already been known to him.This suspicion was given by some words which accidentally dropped fromhim one evening at the park, when they were sitting down together bymutual consent, while the others were dancing. His eyes were fixed onMarianne, and, after a silence of some minutes, he said, with a faintsmile, "Your sister, I understand, does not approve of secondattachments."

  "No," replied Elinor, "her opinions are all romantic."

  "Or rather, as I believe, she considers them impossible to exist."

  "I believe she does. But how she contrives it without reflecting onthe character of her own father, who had himself two wives, I knownot. A few years however will settle her opinions on the reasonablebasis of common sense and observation; and then they may be more easyto define and to justify than they now are, by any body but herself."

  "This will probably be the case," he replied; "and yet there issomething so amiable in the prejudices of a young mind, that one issorry to see them give way to the reception of more general opinions."

  "I cannot agree with you there," said Elinor. "There areinconveniences attending such feelings as Marianne's, which all thecharms of enthusiasm and ignorance of the world cannot atone for. Hersystems have all the unfortunate tendency of setting propriety atnought; and a better acquaintance with the world is what I lookforward to as her greatest possible advantage."

  After a short pause he resumed the conversation by saying--

  "Does your sister make no distinction in her objections against asecond attachment? or is it equally criminal in every body? Are thosewho have been disappointed in their first choice, whether from theinconstancy of its object, or the perverseness of circumstances, to beequally indifferent during the rest of their lives?"

  "Upon my word, I am not acquainted with the minutiae of her principles.I only know that I never yet heard her admit any instance of a secondattachment's being pardonable."

  "This," said he, "cannot hold; but a change, a total change ofsentiments--No, no, do not desire it; for when the romanticrefinements of a young mind are obliged to give way, how frequentlyare they succeeded by such opinions as are but too common, and toodangerous! I speak from experience. I once knew a lady who in temperand mind greatly resembled your sister, who thought and judged likeher, but who from an enforced change--from a series of unfortunatecircumstances--" Here he stopped suddenly; appeared to think that hehad said too much, and by his countenance gave rise to conjectures,which might not otherwise have entered Elinor's head. The lady wouldprobably have passed without suspicion, had he not convinced MissDashwood that what concerned her ought not to escape his lips. As itwas, it required but a slight effort of fancy to connect his emotionwith the tender recollection of past regard. Elinor attempted no more.But Marianne, in her place, would not have done so little. The wholestory would have been speedily formed under her active imagination;and every thing established in the most melancholy order of disastrouslove.

 
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