Sense and sensibility, p.20
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.20

          

  CHAPTER XVIII

  Elinor saw, with great uneasiness the low spirits of her friend. Hisvisit afforded her but a very partial satisfaction, while his ownenjoyment in it appeared so imperfect. It was evident that he wasunhappy; she wished it were equally evident that he stilldistinguished her by the same affection which once she had felt nodoubt of inspiring; but hitherto the continuance of his preferenceseemed very uncertain; and the reservedness of his manner towards hercontradicted one moment what a more animated look had intimated thepreceding one.

  He joined her and Marianne in the breakfast-room the next morningbefore the others were down; and Marianne, who was always eager topromote their happiness as far as she could, soon left them tothemselves. But before she was half way upstairs she heard the parlourdoor open, and, turning round, was astonished to see Edward himselfcome out.

  "I am going into the village to see my horses," said he, "as you arenot yet ready for breakfast; I shall be back again presently."

  * * * * *

  Edward returned to them with fresh admiration of the surroundingcountry; in his walk to the village, he had seen many parts of thevalley to advantage; and the village itself, in a much highersituation than the cottage, afforded a general view of the whole,which had exceedingly pleased him. This was a subject which ensuredMarianne's attention, and she was beginning to describe her ownadmiration of these scenes, and to question him more minutely on theobjects that had particularly struck him, when Edward interrupted herby saying, "You must not enquire too far, Marianne: remember I have noknowledge in the picturesque, and I shall offend you by my ignoranceand want of taste if we come to particulars. I shall call hills steep,which ought to be bold; surfaces strange and uncouth, which ought tobe irregular and rugged; and distant objects out of sight, which oughtonly to be indistinct through the soft medium of a hazy atmosphere.You must be satisfied with such admiration as I can honestly give. Icall it a very fine country,--the hills are steep, the woods seem fullof fine timber, and the valley looks comfortable and snug,--with richmeadows and several neat farm houses scattered here and there. Itexactly answers my idea of a fine country, because it unites beautywith utility--and I dare say it is a picturesque one too, because youadmire it; I can easily believe it to be full of rocks andpromontories, grey moss and brush wood, but these are all lost on me.I know nothing of the picturesque."

  "I am afraid it is but too true," said Marianne; "but why should youboast of it?"

  "I suspect," said Elinor, "that to avoid one kind of affectation,Edward here falls into another. Because he believes many peoplepretend to more admiration of the beauties of nature than they reallyfeel, and is disgusted with such pretensions, he affects greaterindifference and less discrimination in viewing them himself than hepossesses. He is fastidious and will have an affectation of his own."

  "It is very true," said Marianne, "that admiration of landscapescenery is become a mere jargon. Every body pretends to feel and triesto describe with the taste and elegance of him who first defined whatpicturesque beauty was. I detest jargon of every kind, and sometimes Ihave kept my feelings to myself, because I could find no language todescribe them in but what was worn and hackneyed out of all sense andmeaning."

  "I am convinced," said Edward, "that you really feel all the delightin a fine prospect which you profess to feel. But, in return, yoursister must allow me to feel no more than I profess. I like a fineprospect, but not on picturesque principles. I do not like crooked,twisted, blasted trees. I admire them much more if they are tall,straight, and flourishing. I do not like ruined, tattered cottages. Iam not fond of nettles or thistles, or heath blossoms. I have morepleasure in a snug farm-house than a watch-tower,--and a troop oftidy, happy villages please me better than the finest banditti in theworld."

  Marianne looked with amazement at Edward, with compassion at hersister. Elinor only laughed.

  The subject was continued no farther; and Marianne remainedthoughtfully silent, till a new object suddenly engaged her attention.She was sitting by Edward, and in taking his tea from Mrs. Dashwood,his hand passed so directly before her, as to make a ring, with aplait of hair in the centre, very conspicuous on one of his fingers.

  "I never saw you wear a ring before, Edward," she cried. "Is thatFanny's hair? I remember her promising to give you some. But I shouldhave thought her hair had been darker."

  Marianne spoke inconsiderately what she really felt; but when she sawhow much she had pained Edward, her own vexation at her want ofthought could not be surpassed by his. He coloured very deeply, andgiving a momentary glance at Elinor, replied, "Yes; it is my sister'shair. The setting always casts a different shade on it, you know."

  Elinor had met his eye, and looked conscious likewise. That the hairwas her own, she instantaneously felt as well satisfied as Marianne;the only difference in their conclusions was, that what Marianneconsidered as a free gift from her sister, Elinor was conscious musthave been procured by some theft or contrivance unknown to herself.She was not in a humour, however, to regard it as an affront, andaffecting to take no notice of what passed, by instantly talking ofsomething else, she internally resolved henceforward to catch everyopportunity of eyeing the hair and of satisfying herself, beyond alldoubt, that it was exactly the shade of her own.

  Edward's embarrassment lasted some time, and it ended in an absence ofmind still more settled. He was particularly grave the whole morning.Marianne severely censured herself for what she had said; but her ownforgiveness might have been more speedy, had she known how littleoffence it had given her sister.

  Before the middle of the day, they were visited by Sir John and Mrs.Jennings, who, having heard of the arrival of a gentleman at thecottage, came to take a survey of the guest. With the assistance ofhis mother-in-law, Sir John was not long in discovering that the nameof Ferrars began with an F. and this prepared a future mine ofraillery against the devoted Elinor, which nothing but the newness oftheir acquaintance with Edward could have prevented from beingimmediately sprung. But, as it was, she only learned, from some verysignificant looks, how far their penetration, founded on Margaret'sinstructions, extended.

  Sir John never came to the Dashwoods without either inviting them todine at the park the next day, or to drink tea with them that evening.On the present occasion, for the better entertainment of theirvisitor, towards whose amusement he felt himself bound to contribute,he wished to engage them for both.

  "You _must_ drink tea with us to night," said he, "for we shall bequite alone; and tomorrow you must absolutely dine with us, for weshall be a large party."

  Mrs. Jennings enforced the necessity. "And who knows but you may raisea dance," said she. "And that will tempt _you_, Miss Marianne."

  "A dance!" cried Marianne. "Impossible! Who is to dance?"

  _Came to take a survey of the guest._]

  "Who? why yourselves, and the Careys, and Whitakers to be sure.What! you thought nobody could dance because a certain person thatshall be nameless is gone!"

  "I wish with all my soul," cried Sir John, "that Willoughby were amongus again."

  This, and Marianne's blushing, gave new suspicions to Edward. "And whois Willoughby?" said he, in a low voice, to Miss Dashwood, by whom hewas sitting.

  She gave him a brief reply. Marianne's countenance was morecommunicative. Edward saw enough to comprehend, not only the meaningof others, but such of Marianne's expressions as had puzzled himbefore; and when their visitors left them, he went immediately roundher, and said, in a whisper, "I have been guessing. Shall I tell youmy guess?"

  "What do you mean?"

  "Shall I tell you."

  "Certainly."

  "Well then; I guess that Mr. Willoughby hunts."

  Marianne was surprised and confused, yet she could not help smiling atthe quiet archness of his manner, and after a moment's silence, said--

  "Oh, Edward! How can you?--But the time will come I hope--I am sureyou will like him."

  "I do not doubt it," replied he, rather astonished at her earnestnessand warmth; for had he not imagined it to be a joke for the good ofher acquaintance in general, founded only on a something or a nothingbetween Mr. Willoughby and herself, he would not have ventured tomention it.

 
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