Sense and sensibility, p.21
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.21

           Jane Austen


  Edward remained a week at the cottage; he was earnestly pressed byMrs. Dashwood to stay longer; but, as if he were bent only onself-mortification, he seemed resolved to be gone when his enjoymentamong his friends was at the height. His spirits, during the last twoor three days, though still very unequal, were greatly improved--hegrew more and more partial to the house and environs--never spoke ofgoing away without a sigh--declared his time to be whollydisengaged--even doubted to what place he should go when he leftthem--but still, go he must. Never had any week passed so quickly--hecould hardly believe it to be gone. He said so repeatedly; otherthings he said too, which marked the turn of his feelings and gave thelie to his actions. He had no pleasure at Norland; he detested beingin town; but either to Norland or London, he must go. He valued theirkindness beyond any thing, and his greatest happiness was in beingwith them. Yet, he must leave them at the end of a week, in spite oftheir wishes and his own, and without any restraint on his time.

  Elinor placed all that was astonishing in this way of acting to hismother's account; and it was happy for her that he had a mother whosecharacter was so imperfectly known to her, as to be the general excusefor every thing strange on the part of her son. Disappointed, however,and vexed as she was, and sometimes displeased with his uncertainbehaviour to herself, she was very well disposed on the whole toregard his actions with all the candid allowances and generousqualifications, which had been rather more painfully extorted fromher, for Willoughby's service, by her mother. His want of spirits, ofopenness, and of consistency, were most usually attributed to his wantof independence, and his better knowledge of Mrs. Ferrars'sdisposition and designs. The shortness of his visit, the steadiness ofhis purpose in leaving them, originated in the same fetteredinclination, the same inevitable necessity of temporizing with hismother. The old well-established grievance of duty against will,parent against child, was the cause of all. She would have been gladto know when these difficulties were to cease, this opposition was toyield, when Mrs. Ferrars would be reformed, and her son be at libertyto be happy. But from such vain wishes she was forced to turn forcomfort to the renewal of her confidence in Edward's affection, to theremembrance of every mark of regard in look or word which fell fromhim while at Barton, and above all to that flattering proof of itwhich he constantly wore round his finger.

  "I think, Edward," said Mrs. Dashwood, as they were at breakfast thelast morning, "you would be a happier man if you had any profession toengage your time and give an interest to your plans and actions. Someinconvenience to your friends, indeed, might result from it--you wouldnot be able to give them so much of your time. But (with a smile) youwould be materially benefited in one particular at least--you wouldknow where to go when you left them."

  "I do assure you," he replied, "that I have long thought on thispoint, as you think now. It has been, and is, and probably will alwaysbe a heavy misfortune to me, that I have had no necessary business toengage me, no profession to give me employment, or afford me any thinglike independence. But unfortunately my own nicety, and the nicety ofmy friends, have made me what I am, an idle, helpless being. We nevercould agree in our choice of a profession. I always preferred thechurch, as I still do. But that was not smart enough for my family.They recommended the army. That was a great deal too smart for me. Thelaw was allowed to be genteel enough; many young men, who had chambersin the Temple, made a very good appearance in the first circles, anddrove about town in very knowing gigs. But I had no inclination forthe law, even in this less abstruse study of it, which my familyapproved. As for the navy, it had fashion on its side, but I was tooold when the subject was first started to enter it; and, at length, asthere was no necessity for my having any profession at all, as I mightbe as dashing and expensive without a red coat on my back as with one,idleness was pronounced on the whole to be most advantageous andhonourable, and a young man of eighteen is not in general so earnestlybent on being busy as to resist the solicitations of his friends to donothing. I was therefore entered at Oxford and have been properly idleever since."

  "The consequence of which, I suppose, will be," said Mrs. Dashwood,"since leisure has not promoted your own happiness, that your sonswill be brought up to as many pursuits, employments, professions, andtrades as Columella's."

  "They will be brought up," said he, in a serious accent, "to be asunlike myself as is possible. In feeling, in action, in condition, inevery thing."

  "Come, come; this is all an effusion of immediate want of spirits,Edward. You are in a melancholy humour, and fancy that any one unlikeyourself must be happy. But remember that the pain of parting fromfriends will be felt by every body at times, whatever be theireducation or state. Know your own happiness. You want nothing butpatience--or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope. Yourmother will secure to you, in time, that independence you are soanxious for; it is her duty, and it will, it must ere long become herhappiness to prevent your whole youth from being wasted in discontent.How much may not a few months do?"

  "I think," replied Edward, "that I may defy many months to produce anygood to me."

  This desponding turn of mind, though it could not be communicated toMrs. Dashwood, gave additional pain to them all in the parting, whichshortly took place, and left an uncomfortable impression on Elinor'sfeelings especially, which required some trouble and time to subdue.But as it was her determination to subdue it, and to prevent herselffrom appearing to suffer more than what all her family suffered on hisgoing away, she did not adopt the method so judiciously employed byMarianne, on a similar occasion, to augment and fix her sorrow, byseeking silence, solitude and idleness. Their means were as differentas their objects, and equally suited to the advancement of each.

  Elinor sat down to her drawing-table as soon as he was out of thehouse, busily employed herself the whole day, neither sought noravoided the mention of his name, appeared to interest herself almostas much as ever in the general concerns of the family, and if, by thisconduct, she did not lessen her own grief, it was at least preventedfrom unnecessary increase, and her mother and sisters were spared muchsolicitude on her account.

  Such behaviour as this, so exactly the reverse of her own, appeared nomore meritorious to Marianne, than her own had seemed faulty to her.The business of self-command she settled very easily;--with strongaffections it was impossible, with calm ones it could have no merit.That her sister's affections _were_ calm, she dared not deny, thoughshe blushed to acknowledge it; and of the strength of her own, shegave a very striking proof, by still loving and respecting thatsister, in spite of this mortifying conviction.

  Without shutting herself up from her family, or leaving the house indetermined solitude to avoid them, or lying awake the whole night toindulge meditation, Elinor found every day afforded her leisure enoughto think of Edward, and of Edward's behaviour, in every possiblevariety which the different state of her spirits at different timescould produce,--with tenderness, pity, approbation, censure, anddoubt. There were moments in abundance, when, if not by the absence ofher mother and sisters, at least by the nature of their employments,conversation was forbidden among them, and every effect of solitudewas produced. Her mind was inevitably at liberty; her thoughts couldnot be chained elsewhere; and the past and the future, on a subject sointeresting, must be before her, must force her attention, and engrossher memory, her reflection, and her fancy.

  From a reverie of this kind, as she sat at her drawing-table, she wasroused one morning, soon after Edward's leaving them, by the arrivalof company. She happened to be quite alone. The closing of the littlegate, at the entrance of the green court in front of the house, drewher eyes to the window, and she saw a large party walking up to thedoor. Amongst them were Sir John and Lady Middleton and Mrs. Jennings,but there were two others, a gentleman and lady, who were quiteunknown to her. She was sitting near the window, and as soon as SirJohn perceived her, he left the rest of the party to the ceremony ofknocking at the door, and stepping across the turf, obliged her toopen the c
asement to speak to him, though the space was so shortbetween the door and the window, as to make it hardly possible tospeak at one without being heard at the other.

  "Well," said he, "we have brought you some strangers. How do you likethem?"

  "Hush! they will hear you."

  "Never mind if they do. It is only the Palmers. Charlotte is verypretty, I can tell you. You may see her if you look this way."

  As Elinor was certain of seeing her in a couple of minutes, withouttaking that liberty, she begged to be excused.

  "Where is Marianne? Has she run away because we are come? I see herinstrument is open."

  "She is walking, I believe."

  They were now joined by Mrs. Jennings, who had not patience enough towait till the door was opened before she told _her_ story. She camehallooing to the window, "How do you do, my dear? How does Mrs.Dashwood do? And where are your sisters? What! all alone! you will beglad of a little company to sit with you. I have brought my other sonand daughter to see you. Only think of their coming so suddenly! Ithought I heard a carriage last night, while we were drinking our tea,but it never entered my head that it could be them. I thought ofnothing but whether it might not be Colonel Brandon come back again;so I said to Sir John, I do think I hear a carriage; perhaps it isColonel Brandon come back again--"

  Elinor was obliged to turn from her, in the middle of her story, toreceive the rest of the party; Lady Middleton introduced the twostrangers; Mrs. Dashwood and Margaret came down stairs at the sametime, and they all sat down to look at one another, while Mrs.Jennings continued her story as she walked through the passage intothe parlour, attended by Sir John.

  Mrs. Palmer was several years younger than Lady Middleton, and totallyunlike her in every respect. She was short and plump, had a verypretty face, and the finest expression of good humour in it that couldpossibly be. Her manners were by no means so elegant as her sister's,but they were much more prepossessing. She came in with a smile,smiled all the time of her visit, except when she laughed, and smiledwhen she went away. Her husband was a grave looking young man of fiveor six and twenty, with an air of more fashion and sense than hiswife, but of less willingness to please or be pleased. He entered theroom with a look of self-consequence, slightly bowed to the ladies,without speaking a word, and, after briefly surveying them and theirapartments, took up a newspaper from the table, and continued to readit as long as he stayed.

  Mrs. Palmer, on the contrary, who was strongly endowed by nature witha turn for being uniformly civil and happy, was hardly seated beforeher admiration of the parlour and every thing in it burst forth.

  "Well! what a delightful room this is! I never saw anything socharming! Only think, Mamma, how it is improved since I was here last!I always thought it such a sweet place, ma'am! (turning to Mrs.Dashwood) but you have made it so charming! Only look, sister, howdelightful every thing is! How I should like such a house for myself!Should not you, Mr. Palmer?"

  Mr. Palmer made her no answer, and did not even raise his eyes fromthe newspaper.

  "Mr. Palmer does not hear me," said she, laughing; "he never doessometimes. It is so ridiculous!"

  This was quite a new idea to Mrs. Dashwood; she had never been used tofind wit in the inattention of any one, and could not help lookingwith surprise at them both.

  Mrs. Jennings, in the meantime, talked on as loud as she could, andcontinued her account of their surprise, the evening before, on seeingtheir friends, without ceasing till every thing was told. Mrs. Palmerlaughed heartily at the recollection of their astonishment, and everybody agreed, two or three times over, that it had been quite anagreeable surprise.

  "You may believe how glad we all were to see them," added Mrs.Jennings, leaning forward towards Elinor, and speaking in a low voiceas if she meant to be heard by no one else, though they were seated ondifferent sides of the room; "but, however, I can't help wishing theyhad not travelled quite so fast, nor made such a long journey of it,for they came all round by London upon account of some business, foryou know (nodding significantly and pointing to her daughter) it waswrong in her situation. I wanted her to stay at home and rest thismorning, but she would come with us; she longed so much to see youall!"

  Mrs. Palmer laughed, and said it would not do her any harm.

  "She expects to be confined in February," continued Mrs. Jennings.

  Lady Middleton could no longer endure such a conversation, andtherefore exerted herself to ask Mr. Palmer if there was any news inthe paper.

  "No, none at all," he replied, and read on.

  "Here comes Marianne," cried Sir John. "Now, Palmer, you shall see amonstrous pretty girl."

  He immediately went into the passage, opened the front door, andushered her in himself. Mrs. Jennings asked her, as soon as sheappeared, if she had not been to Allenham; and Mrs. Palmer laughed soheartily at the question, as to show she understood it. Mr. Palmerlooked up on her entering the room, stared at her some minutes, andthen returned to his newspaper. Mrs. Palmer's eye was now caught bythe drawings which hung round the room. She got up to examine them.

  "_I declare they are quite charming_."]

  "Oh! dear, how beautiful these are! Well! how delightful! Do but look,mama, how sweet! I declare they are quite charming; I could look atthem for ever." And then sitting down again, she very soon forgot thatthere were any such things in the room.

  When Lady Middleton rose to go away, Mr. Palmer rose also, laid downthe newspaper, stretched himself and looked at them all around.

  "My love, have you been asleep?" said his wife, laughing.

  He made her no answer; and only observed, after again examining theroom, that it was very low pitched, and that the ceiling was crooked.He then made his bow, and departed with the rest.

  Sir John had been very urgent with them all to spend the next day atthe park. Mrs. Dashwood, who did not choose to dine with them oftenerthan they dined at the cottage, absolutely refused on her own account;her daughters might do as they pleased. But they had no curiosity tosee how Mr. and Mrs. Palmer ate their dinner, and no expectation ofpleasure from them in any other way. They attempted, therefore,likewise, to excuse themselves; the weather was uncertain, and notlikely to be good. But Sir John would not be satisfied--the carriageshould be sent for them and they must come. Lady Middleton too, thoughshe did not press their mother, pressed them. Mrs. Jennings and Mrs.Palmer joined their entreaties, all seemed equally anxious to avoid afamily party; and the young ladies were obliged to yield.

  "Why should they ask us?" said Marianne, as soon as they were gone."The rent of this cottage is said to be low; but we have it on veryhard terms, if we are to dine at the park whenever any one is stayingeither with them, or with us."

  "They mean no less to be civil and kind to us now," said Elinor, "bythese frequent invitations, than by those which we received from thema few weeks ago. The alteration is not in them, if their parties aregrown tedious and dull. We must look for the change elsewhere."

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