Sense and sensibility, p.18
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.18

          

  CHAPTER XVI

  Marianne would have thought herself very inexcusable had she been ableto sleep at all the first night after parting from Willoughby. Shewould have been ashamed to look her family in the face the nextmorning, had she not risen from her bed in more need of repose thanwhen she lay down in it. But the feelings which made such composure adisgrace, left her in no danger of incurring it. She was awake thewhole night, and she wept the greatest part of it. She got up with aheadache, was unable to talk, and unwilling to take any nourishment;giving pain every moment to her mother and sisters, and forbiddingall attempt at consolation from either. Her sensibility was potentenough!

  When breakfast was over she walked out by herself, and wandered aboutthe village of Allenham, indulging the recollection of past enjoymentand crying over the present reverse for the chief of the morning.

  The evening passed off in the equal indulgence of feeling. She playedover every favourite song that she had been used to play toWilloughby, every air in which their voices had been oftenest joined,and sat at the instrument gazing on every line of music that he hadwritten out for her, till her heart was so heavy that no farthersadness could be gained; and this nourishment of grief was every dayapplied. She spent whole hours at the pianoforte alternately singingand crying; her voice often totally suspended by her tears. In bookstoo, as well as in music, she courted the misery which a contrastbetween the past and present was certain of giving. She read nothingbut what they had been used to read together.

  Such violence of affliction indeed could not be supported for ever; itsunk within a few days into a calmer melancholy; but theseemployments, to which she daily recurred, her solitary walks andsilent meditations, still produced occasional effusions of sorrow aslively as ever.

  No letter from Willoughby came; and none seemed expected by Marianne.Her mother was surprised, and Elinor again became uneasy. But Mrs.Dashwood could find explanations whenever she wanted them, which atleast satisfied herself.

  "Remember, Elinor," said she, "how very often Sir John fetches ourletters himself from the post, and carries them to it. We have alreadyagreed that secrecy may be necessary, and we must acknowledge that itcould not be maintained if their correspondence were to pass throughSir John's hands."

  Elinor could not deny the truth of this, and she tried to find in it amotive sufficient for their silence. But there was one method sodirect, so simple, and in her opinion so eligible of knowing the realstate of the affair, and of instantly removing all mystery, that shecould not help suggesting it to her mother.

  "Why do you not ask Marianne at once," said she, "whether she is orshe is not engaged to Willoughby? From you, her mother, and so kind,so indulgent a mother, the question could not give offence. It wouldbe the natural result of your affection for her. She used to be allunreserve, and to you more especially."

  "I would not ask such a question for the world. Supposing it possiblethat they are not engaged, what distress would not such an enquiryinflict! At any rate it would be most ungenerous. I should neverdeserve her confidence again, after forcing from her a confession ofwhat is meant at present to be unacknowledged to any one. I knowMarianne's heart: I know that she dearly loves me, and that I shallnot be the last to whom the affair is made known, when circumstancesmake the revealment of it eligible. I would not attempt to force theconfidence of any one; of a child much less; because a sense of dutywould prevent the denial which her wishes might direct."

  Elinor thought this generosity overstrained, considering her sister'syouth, and urged the matter farther, but in vain; common sense, commoncare, common prudence, were all sunk in Mrs. Dashwood's romanticdelicacy.

  It was several days before Willoughby's name was mentioned beforeMarianne by any of her family; Sir John and Mrs. Jennings, indeed,were not so nice; their witticisms added pain to many a painful hour;but one evening, Mrs. Dashwood, accidentally taking up a volume ofShakespeare, exclaimed--

  "We have never finished _Hamlet_, Marianne; our dear Willoughby wentaway before we could get through it. We will put it by, that when hecomes again--; But it may be months, perhaps, before _that_ happens."

  "Months!" cried Marianne, with strong surprise. "No--nor many weeks."

  Mrs. Dashwood was sorry for what she had said; but it gave Elinorpleasure, as it produced a reply from Marianne so expressive ofconfidence in Willoughby and knowledge of his intentions.

  One morning, about a week after his leaving the country, Marianne wasprevailed on to join her sisters in their usual walk, instead ofwandering away by herself. Hitherto she had carefully avoided everycompanion in her rambles. If her sisters intended to walk on thedowns, she directly stole away towards the lanes; if they talked ofthe valley, she was as speedy in climbing the hills, and could neverbe found when the others set off. But at length she was secured by theexertions of Elinor, who greatly disapproved such continual seclusion.They walked along the road through the valley, and chiefly in silence,for Marianne's _mind_ could not be controlled, and Elinor, satisfiedwith gaining one point, would not then attempt more. Beyond theentrance of the valley, where the country, though still rich, was lesswild and more open, a long stretch of the road which they hadtravelled on first coming to Barton, lay before them; and on reachingthat point, they stopped to look around them, and examine a prospectwhich formed the distance of their view from the cottage, from a spotwhich they had never happened to reach in any of their walks before.

  Amongst the objects in the scene, they soon discovered an animatedone; it was a man on horseback riding towards them. In a few minutesthey could distinguish him to be a gentleman; and in a momentafterwards Marianne rapturously exclaimed--

  "It is he; it is indeed--I know it is!" and was hastening to meet him,when Elinor cried out--

  "Indeed, Marianne, I think you are mistaken. It is not Willoughby. Theperson is not tall enough for him, and has not his air."

  "He has, he has," cried Marianne, "I am sure he has. His air, hiscoat, his horse. I knew how soon he would come."

  She walked eagerly on as she spoke; and Elinor, to screen Mariannefrom particularity, as she felt almost certain of its not beingWilloughby, quickened her pace and kept up with her. They were soonwithin thirty yards of the gentleman. Marianne looked again; her heartsunk within her; and abruptly turning round, she was hurrying back,when the voices of both her sisters were raised to detain her; athird, almost as well known as Willoughby's, joined them in beggingher to stop, and she turned round with surprise to see and welcomeEdward Ferrars.

  _Begging her to stop._]

  He was the only person in the world who could at that moment beforgiven for not being Willoughby; the only one who could have gaineda smile from her; but she dispersed her tears to smile on _him_, andin her sister's happiness forgot for a time her own disappointment.

  He dismounted, and giving his horse to his servant, walked back withthem to Barton, whither he was purposely coming to visit them.

  He was welcomed by them all with great cordiality, but especially byMarianne, who showed more warmth of regard in her reception of himthan even Elinor herself. To Marianne, indeed, the meeting betweenEdward and her sister was but a continuation of that unaccountablecoldness which she had often observed at Norland in their mutualbehaviour. On Edward's side, more particularly, there was a deficiencyof all that a lover ought to look and say on such an occasion. He wasconfused, seemed scarcely sensible of pleasure in seeing them, lookedneither rapturous nor gay, said little but what was forced from him byquestions, and distinguished Elinor by no mark of affection. Mariannesaw and listened with increasing surprise. She began almost to feel adislike of Edward; and it ended, as every feeling must end with her,by carrying back her thoughts to Willoughby, whose manners formed acontrast sufficiently striking to those of his brother elect.

  After a short silence which succeeded the first surprise and enquiriesof meeting, Marianne asked Edward if he came directly from London. No,he had been in Devonshire a fortnight.

  "A fortnight!" she repeated, surprised at his being so long in thesame county with Elinor without seeing her before.

  He looked rather distressed as he added, that he had been staying withsome friends near Plymouth.

  "Have you been lately in Sussex?" said Elinor.

  "I was at Norland about a month ago."

  "And how does dear, dear Norland look?" cried Marianne.

  "Dear, dear Norland," said Elinor, "probably looks much as it alwaysdoes at this time of the year--the woods and walks thickly coveredwith dead leaves."

  "Oh," cried Marianne, "with what transporting sensation have Iformerly seen them fall! How have I delighted, as I walked, to seethem driven in showers about me by the wind! What feelings have they,the season, the air altogether inspired! Now there is no one to regardthem. They are seen only as a nuisance, swept hastily off, and drivenas much as possible from the sight."

  "It is not every one," said Elinor, "who has your passion for deadleaves."

  "No; my feelings are not often shared, not often understood. But_sometimes_ they are." As she said this, she sunk into a reverie for afew moments; but rousing herself again, "Now, Edward," said she,calling his attention to the prospect, "here is Barton valley. Look upto it, and be tranquil if you can. Look at those hills! Did you eversee their equals? To the left is Barton park, amongst those woods andplantations. You may see the end of the house. And there, beneath thatfarthest hill, which rises with such grandeur, is our cottage."

  "It is a beautiful country," he replied; "but these bottoms must bedirty in winter."

  "How can you think of dirt, with such objects before you?"

  "Because," replied he, smiling, "among the rest of the objects beforeme, I see a very dirty lane."

  "How strange!" said Marianne to herself as she walked on.

  "Have you an agreeable neighbourhood here? Are the Middletons pleasantpeople?"

  "No, not all," answered Marianne; "we could not be more unfortunatelysituated."

  "Marianne," cried her sister, "how can you say so? How can you be sounjust? They are a very respectable family, Mr. Ferrars; and towardsus have behaved in the friendliest manner. Have you forgot, Marianne,how many pleasant days we have owed to them?"

  "No," said Marianne, in a low voice, "nor how many painful moments."

  Elinor took no notice of this; and directing her attention to theirvisitor, endeavoured to support something like discourse with him, bytalking of their present residence, its conveniences, &c. extortingfrom him occasional questions and remarks. His coldness and reservemortified her severely; she was vexed and half angry; but resolving toregulate her behaviour to him by the past rather than the present,she avoided every appearance of resentment or displeasure, and treatedhim as she thought he ought to be treated from the family connection.

 
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