Sense and sensibility, p.19
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.19

          

  CHAPTER XVII

  Mrs. Dashwood was surprised only for a moment at seeing him; for hiscoming to Barton was, in her opinion, of all things the most natural.Her joy and expression of regard long outlived her wonder. He receivedthe kindest welcome from her; and shyness, coldness, reserve could notstand against such a reception. They had begun to fail him before heentered the house, and they were quite overcome by the captivatingmanners of Mrs. Dashwood. Indeed a man could not very well be in lovewith either of her daughters, without extending the passion to her;and Elinor had the satisfaction of seeing him soon become more likehimself. His affections seemed to reanimate towards them all, and hisinterest in their welfare again became perceptible. He was not inspirits, however; he praised their house, admired its prospect, wasattentive, and kind; but still he was not in spirits. The whole familyperceived it, and Mrs. Dashwood, attributing it to some want ofliberality in his mother, sat down to table indignant against allselfish parents.

  "What are Mrs. Ferrars's views for you at present, Edward?" said she,when dinner was over and they had drawn round the fire; "are you stillto be a great orator in spite of yourself?"

  "No. I hope my mother is now convinced that I have no more talentsthan inclination for a public life!"

  "But how is your fame to be established? for famous you must be tosatisfy all your family; and with no inclination for expense, noaffection for strangers, no profession, and no assurance, you may findit a difficult matter."

  "I shall not attempt it. I have no wish to be distinguished; and haveevery reason to hope I never shall. Thank Heaven! I cannot be forcedinto genius and eloquence."

  "You have no ambition, I well know. Your wishes are all moderate."

  "As moderate as those of the rest of the world, I believe. I wish aswell as every body else to be perfectly happy; but, like every bodyelse it must be in my own way. Greatness will not make me so."

  "Strange that it would!" cried Marianne. "What have wealth or grandeurto do with happiness?"

  "Grandeur has but little," said Elinor, "but wealth has much to dowith it."

  "Elinor, for shame!" said Marianne, "money can only give happinesswhere there is nothing else to give it. Beyond a competence, it canafford no real satisfaction, as far as mere self is concerned."

  "Perhaps," said Elinor, smiling, "we may come to the same point._Your_ competence and _my_ wealth are very much alike, I dare say; andwithout them, as the world goes now, we shall both agree that everykind of external comfort must be wanting. Your ideas are only morenoble than mine. Come, what is your competence?"

  "About eighteen hundred or two thousand a year; not more than _that._"

  Elinor laughed. "_Two_ thousand a year! _One_ is my wealth! I guessedhow it would end."

  "And yet two thousand a-year is a very moderate income," saidMarianne. "A family cannot well be maintained on a smaller. I am sureI am not extravagant in my demands. A proper establishment ofservants, a carriage, perhaps two, and hunters, cannot be supported onless."

  Elinor smiled again, to hear her sister describing so accurately theirfuture expenses at Combe Magna.

  "Hunters!" repeated Edward; "but why must you have hunters? Every bodydoes not hunt."

  Marianne coloured as she replied, "But most people do."

  "I wish," said Margaret, striking out a novel thought, "that somebodywould give us all a large fortune a-piece!"

  "Oh that they would!" cried Marianne, her eyes sparkling withanimation, and her cheeks glowing with the delight of such imaginaryhappiness.

  "We are all unanimous in that wish, I suppose," said Elinor, "in spiteof the insufficiency of wealth."

  "Oh dear!" cried Margaret, "how happy I should be! I wonder what Ishould do with it!"

  Marianne looked as if she had no doubt on that point.

  "I should be puzzled to spend so large a fortune myself," said Mrs.Dashwood, "if my children were all to be rich without my help."

  "You must begin your improvements on this house," observed Elinor,"and your difficulties will soon vanish."

  "What magnificent orders would travel from this family to London,"said Edward, "in such an event! What a happy day for booksellers,music-sellers, and print-shops! You, Miss Dashwood, would give ageneral commission for every new print of merit to be sent you--and asfor Marianne, I know her greatness of soul, there would not be musicenough in London to content her. And books!--Thomson, Cowper,Scott--she would buy them all over and over again: she would buy upevery copy, I believe, to prevent their falling into unworthy hands;and she would have every book that tells her how to admire an oldtwisted tree. Should not you, Marianne? Forgive me, if I am verysaucy. But I was willing to show you that I had not forgot our olddisputes."

  "I love to be reminded of the past, Edward--whether it be melancholyor gay, I love to recall it--and you will never offend me by talkingof former times. You are very right in supposing how my money would bespent; some of it, at least--my loose cash--would certainly beemployed in improving my collection of music and books."

  "And the bulk of your fortune would be laid out in annuities on theauthors or their heirs."

  "No, Edward, I should have something else to do with it."

  "Perhaps, then, you would bestow it as a reward on that person whowrote the ablest defence of your favourite maxim, that no one can everbe in love more than once in their life--for your opinion on thatpoint is unchanged, I presume?"

  "Undoubtedly. At my time of life opinions are tolerably fixed. It isnot likely that I should now see or hear any thing to change them."

  "Marianne is as steadfast as ever, you see," said Elinor, "she is notat all altered."

  "She is only grown a little more grave than she was."

  "Nay, Edward," said Marianne, "you need not reproach me. You are notvery gay yourself."

  "Why should you think so!" replied he, with a sigh. "But gaiety neverwas a part of _my_ character."

  "Nor do I think it a part of Marianne's," said Elinor; "I shouldhardly call her a lively girl--she is very earnest, very eager in allshe does--sometimes talks a great deal and always with animation--butshe is not often really merry."

  "I believe you are right," he replied, "and yet I have always set herdown as a lively girl."

  "I have frequently detected myself in such kind of mistakes," saidElinor, "in a total misapprehension of character in some point orother: fancying people so much more gay or grave, or ingenious orstupid than they really are, and I can hardly tell why or in what thedeception originated. Sometimes one is guided by what they say ofthemselves, and very frequently by what other people say of them,without giving oneself time to deliberate and judge."

  "But I thought it was right, Elinor," said Marianne, "to be guidedwholly by the opinion of other people. I thought our judgments weregiven us merely to be subservient to those of neighbours. This hasalways been your doctrine, I am sure."

  "No, Marianne, never. My doctrine has never aimed at the subjection ofthe understanding. All I have ever attempted to influence has been thebehaviour. You must not confound my meaning. I am guilty, I confess,of having often wished you to treat our acquaintance in general withgreater attention; but when have I advised you to adopt theirsentiments or to conform to their judgment in serious matters?"

  "You have not been able to bring your sister over to your plan ofgeneral civility," said Edward to Elinor, "Do you gain no ground?"

  "Quite the contrary," replied Elinor, looking expressively atMarianne.

  "My judgment," he returned, "is all on your side of the question; butI am afraid my practice is much more on your sister's. I never wish tooffend, but I am so foolishly shy, that I often seem negligent, when Iam only kept back by my natural awkwardness. I have frequently thoughtthat I must have been intended by nature to be fond of low company, Iam so little at my ease among strangers of gentility!"

  "Marianne has not shyness to excuse any inattention of hers," saidElinor.

  "She knows her own worth too well for false shame," replied Edward."Shyness is only the effect of a sense of inferiority in some way orother. If I could persuade myself that my manners were perfectly easyand graceful, I should not be shy."

  "But you would still be reserved," said Marianne, "and that is worse."

  Edward started. "Reserved! Am I reserved, Marianne?"

  "Yes, very."

  "I do not understand you," replied he, colouring. "Reserved!--how, inwhat manner? What am I to tell you? What can you suppose?"

  Elinor looked surprised at his emotion; but trying to laugh off thesubject, she said to him, "Do not you know my sister well enough tounderstand what she means? Do not you know she calls every onereserved who does not talk as fast, and admire what she admires asrapturously as herself?"

  Edward made no answer. His gravity and thoughtfulness returned on himin their fullest extent--and he sat for some time silent and dull.

 
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