Sense and sensibility, p.14
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.14

          

  CHAPTER XII

  As Elinor and Marianne were walking together the next morning thelatter communicated a piece of news to her sister, which in spite ofall that she knew before of Marianne's imprudence and want of thought,surprised her by its extravagant testimony of both. Marianne told her,with the greatest delight, that Willoughby had given her a horse, onethat he had bred himself on his estate in Somersetshire, and which wasexactly calculated to carry a woman. Without considering that it wasnot in her mother's plan to keep any horse, that if she were to alterher resolution in favour of this gift, she must buy another for theservant, and keep a servant to ride it, and after all, build a stableto receive them, she had accepted the present without hesitation, andtold her sister of it in raptures.

  "He intends to send his groom into Somersetshire immediately for it,"she added, "and when it arrives we will ride every day. You shallshare its use with me. Imagine to yourself, my dear Elinor, thedelight of a gallop on some of these downs."

  Most unwilling was she to awaken from such a dream of felicity tocomprehend all the unhappy truths which attended the affair; and forsome time she refused to submit to them. As to an additional servant,the expense would be a trifle; Mamma she was sure would never objectto it; and any horse would do for _him_; he might always get one atthe park; as to a stable, the merest shed would be sufficient. Elinorthen ventured to doubt the propriety of her receiving such a presentfrom a man so little, or at least so lately known to her. This was toomuch.

  "You are mistaken, Elinor," said she warmly, "in supposing I know verylittle of Willoughby. I have not known him long indeed, but I am muchbetter acquainted with him, than I am with any other creature in theworld, except yourself and mama. It is not time or opportunity that isto determine intimacy; it is disposition alone. Seven years would beinsufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and sevendays are more than enough for others. I should hold myself guilty ofgreater impropriety in accepting a horse from my brother, than fromWilloughby. Of John I know very little, though we have lived togetherfor years; but of Willoughby my judgment has long been formed."

  Elinor thought it wisest to touch that point no more. She knew hersister's temper. Opposition on so tender a subject would only attachher the more to her own opinion. But by an appeal to her affection forher mother, by representing the inconveniences which that indulgentmother must draw on herself, if (as would probably be the case) sheconsented to this increase of establishment, Marianne was shortlysubdued; and she promised not to tempt her mother to such imprudentkindness by mentioning the offer, and to tell Willoughby when she sawhim next, that it must be declined.

  She was faithful to her word; and when Willoughby called at thecottage, the same day, Elinor heard her express her disappointment tohim in a low voice, on being obliged to forego the acceptance of hispresent. The reasons for this alteration were at the same timerelated, and they were such as to make further entreaty on his sideimpossible. His concern however was very apparent; and afterexpressing it with earnestness, he added, in the same low voice, "But,Marianne, the horse is still yours, though you cannot use it now. Ishall keep it only till you can claim it. When you leave Barton toform your own establishment in a more lasting home, Queen Mab shallreceive you."

  This was all overheard by Miss Dashwood; and in the whole of thesentence, in his manner of pronouncing it, and in his addressing hersister by her Christian name alone, she instantly saw an intimacy sodecided, a meaning so direct, as marked a perfect agreement betweenthem. From that moment she doubted not of their being engaged to eachother; and the belief of it created no other surprise than that she,or any of their friends, should be left by tempers so frank, todiscover it by accident.

  Margaret related something to her the next day, which placed thismatter in a still clearer light. Willoughby had spent the precedingevening with them, and Margaret, by being left some time in theparlour with only him and Marianne, had had opportunity forobservations, which, with a most important face, she communicated toher eldest sister, when they were next by themselves.

  "Oh, Elinor!" she cried, "I have such a secret to tell you aboutMarianne. I am sure she will be married to Mr. Willoughby very soon."

  "You have said so," replied Elinor, "almost every day since they firstmet on High-church Down; and they had not known each other a week, Ibelieve, before you were certain that Marianne wore his picture roundher neck; but it turned out to be only the miniature of our greatuncle."

  "But indeed this is quite another thing. I am sure they will bemarried very soon, for he has got a lock of her hair."

  "Take care, Margaret. It may be only the hair of some great uncle of_his_."

  "But, indeed, Elinor, it is Marianne's. I am almost sure it is, for Isaw him cut it off. Last night after tea, when you and mama went outof the room, they were whispering and talking together as fast ascould be, and he seemed to be begging something of her, and presentlyhe took up her scissors and cut off a long lock of her hair, for itwas all tumbled down her back; and he kissed it, and folded it up in apiece of white paper; and put it into his pocket-book."

  For such particulars, stated on such authority, Elinor could notwithhold her credit; nor was she disposed to it, for the circumstancewas in perfect unison with what she had heard and seen herself.

  Margaret's sagacity was not always displayed in a way so satisfactoryto her sister. When Mrs. Jennings attacked her one evening at thepark, to give the name of the young man who was Elinor's particularfavourite, which had been long a matter of great curiosity to her,Margaret answered by looking at her sister, and saying, "I must nottell, may I, Elinor?"

  This of course made every body laugh; and Elinor tried to laugh too.But the effort was painful. She was convinced that Margaret had fixedon a person whose name she could not bear with composure to become astanding joke with Mrs. Jennings.

  _He cut off a long lock of her hair._]

  Marianne felt for her most sincerely; but she did more harm than goodto the cause, by turning very red and saying in an angry manner toMargaret--

  "Remember that whatever your conjectures may be, you have no right torepeat them."

  "I never had any conjectures about it," replied Margaret; "it was youwho told me of it yourself."

  This increased the mirth of the company, and Margaret was eagerlypressed to say something more.

  "Oh! pray, Miss Margaret, let us know all about it," said Mrs.Jennings. "What is the gentleman's name?"

  "I must not tell, ma'am. But I know very well what it is; and I knowwhere he is too."

  "Yes, yes, we can guess where he is; at his own house at Norland to besure. He is the curate of the parish I dare say."

  "No, _that_ he is not. He is of no profession at all."

  "Margaret," said Marianne with great warmth, "you know that all thisis an invention of your own, and that there is no such person inexistence."

  "Well, then, he is lately dead, Marianne, for I am sure there was sucha man once, and his name begins with an F."

  Most grateful did Elinor feel to Lady Middleton for observing, at thismoment, "that it rained very hard," though she believed theinterruption to proceed less from any attention to her, than from herladyship's great dislike of all such inelegant subjects of raillery asdelighted her husband and mother. The idea however started by her, wasimmediately pursued by Colonel Brandon, who was on every occasionmindful of the feelings of others; and much was said on the subject ofrain by both of them. Willoughby opened the piano-forte, and askedMarianne to sit down to it; and thus amidst the various endeavours ofdifferent people to quit the topic, it fell to the ground. But not soeasily did Elinor recover from the alarm into which it had thrown her.

  A party was formed this evening for going on the following day to seea very fine place about twelve miles from Barton, belonging to abrother-in-law of Colonel Brandon, without whose interest it could notbe seen, as the proprietor, who was then abroad, had left strictorders on that head. The grounds were declared to be highly beautiful,and Sir John, who was particularly warm in their praise, might beallowed to be a tolerable judge, for he had formed parties to visitthem, at least, twice every summer for the last ten years. Theycontained a noble piece of water--a sail on which was to a form agreat part of the morning's amusement; cold provisions were to betaken, open carriages only to be employed, and every thing conductedin the usual style of a complete party of pleasure.

  To some few of the company it appeared rather a bold undertaking,considering the time of year, and that it had rained every day for thelast fortnight; and Mrs. Dashwood, who had already a cold, waspersuaded by Elinor to stay at home.

 
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