Sense and sensibility, p.32
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.32

          

  CHAPTER XXX

  Mrs. Jennings came immediately to their room on her return, andwithout waiting to have her request of admittance answered, opened thedoor and walked in with a look of real concern.

  "How do you do my dear?" said she in a voice of great compassion toMarianne, who turned away her face without attempting to answer.

  "How is she, Miss Dashwood? Poor thing! she looks very bad. Nowonder. Ay, it is but too true. He is to be married very soon--agood-for-nothing fellow! I have no patience with him. Mrs. Taylor toldme of it half an hour ago, and she was told it by a particular friendof Miss Grey herself, else I am sure I should not have believed it;and I was almost ready to sink as it was. Well, said I, all I can sayis, that if this be true, he has used a young lady of my acquaintanceabominably ill, and I wish with all my soul his wife may plague hisheart out. And so I shall always say, my dear, you may depend on it. Ihave no notion of men's going on in this way; and if ever I meet himagain, I will give him such a dressing as he has not had this many aday. But there is one comfort, my dear Miss Marianne--he is not theonly young man in the world worth having; and with your pretty faceyou will never want admirers. Well, poor thing! I won't disturb herany longer, for she had better have her cry out at once and have donewith. The Parrys and Sandersons luckily are coming tonight you know,and that will amuse her."

  She then went away, walking on tiptoe out of the room, as if shesupposed her young friend's affliction could be increased by noise.

  Marianne, to the surprise of her sister, determined on dining withthem. Elinor even advised her against it. But "no, she would go down;she could bear it very well, and the bustle about her would be less."Elinor, pleased to have her governed for a moment by such a motive,though believing it hardly possible that she could sit out the dinner,said no more; and adjusting her dress for her as well as she could,while Marianne still remained on the bed, was ready to assist her intothe dining room as soon as they were summoned to it.

  When there, though looking most wretchedly, she ate more and wascalmer than her sister had expected. Had she tried to speak, or hadshe been conscious of half Mrs. Jennings's well-meant but ill-judgedattentions to her, this calmness could not have been maintained; butnot a syllable escaped her lips; and the abstraction of her thoughtspreserved her in ignorance of every thing that was passing before her.

  Elinor, who did justice to Mrs. Jennings's kindness, though itseffusions were often distressing, and sometimes almost ridiculous,made her those acknowledgments, and returned her those civilities,which her sister could not make or return for herself. Their goodfriend saw that Marianne was unhappy, and felt that every thing wasdue to her which might make her at all less so. She treated hertherefore, with all the indulgent fondness of a parent towards afavourite child on the last day of its holidays. Marianne was to havethe best place by the fire, was to be tempted to eat by every delicacyin the house, and to be amused by the relation of all the news of theday. Had not Elinor, in the sad countenance of her sister, seen acheck to all mirth, she could have been entertained by Mrs. Jennings'sendeavours to cure a disappointment in love, by a variety ofsweetmeats and olives, and a good fire. As soon, however, as theconsciousness of all this was forced by continual repetition onMarianne, she could stay no longer. With a hasty exclamation ofMisery, and a sign to her sister not to follow her, she directly gotup and hurried out of the room.

  "Poor soul!" cried Mrs. Jennings, as soon as she was gone, "how itgrieves me to see her! And I declare if she is not gone away withoutfinishing her wine! And the dried cherries too! Lord! nothing seems todo her any good. I am sure if I knew of any thing she would like, Iwould send all over the town for it. Well, it is the oddest thing tome, that a man should use such a pretty girl so ill! But when thereis plenty of money on one side, and next to none on the other, Lordbless you! they care no more about such things!"

  "The lady then,--Miss Grey I think you called her,--is very rich?"

  "Fifty thousand pounds, my dear. Did you ever see her? a smart,stylish girl they say, but not handsome. I remember her aunt verywell, Biddy Henshawe; she married a very wealthy man. But the familyare all rich together. Fifty thousand pounds! and by all accounts, itwon't come before it's wanted; for they say he is all to pieces. Nowonder! dashing about with his curricle and hunters! Well, it don'tsignify talking; but when a young man, be who he will, comes and makeslove to a pretty girl, and promises marriage, he has no business tofly off from his word only because he grows poor, and a richer girl isready to have him. Why don't he, in such a case, sell his horses, lethis house, turn off his servants, and make a thorough reform at once?I warrant you, Miss Marianne would have been ready to wait tillmatters came round. But that won't do nowadays; nothing in the wayof pleasure can ever be given up by the young men of this age."

  "Do you know what kind of a girl Miss Grey is? Is she said to beamiable?"

  "I never heard any harm of her; indeed I hardly ever heard hermentioned; except that Mrs. Taylor did say this morning, that one dayMiss Walker hinted to her, that she believed Mr. and Mrs. Ellisonwould not be sorry to have Miss Grey married, for she and Mrs. Ellisoncould never agree."

  "And who are the Ellisons?"

  "Her guardians, my dear. But now she is of age and may choose forherself; and a pretty choice she has made!--What now," after pausing amoment, "your poor sister is gone to her own room, I suppose, to moanby herself. Is there nothing one can get to comfort her? Poor dear, itseems quite cruel to let her be alone. Well, by and by we shall have afew friends, and that will amuse her a little. What shall we play at?She hates whist I know; but is there no round game she cares for?"

  "Dear ma'am, this kindness is quite unnecessary. Marianne, I dare say,will not leave her room again this evening. I shall persuade her if Ican to go early to bed, for I am sure she wants rest."

  "Aye, I believe that will be best for her. Let her name her ownsupper, and go to bed. Lord! no wonder she has been looking so bad andso cast down this last week or two, for this matter I suppose has beenhanging over her head as long as that. And so the letter that cametoday finished it! Poor soul! I am sure if I had had a notion of it, Iwould not have joked her about it for all my money. But then you know,how should I guess such a thing? I made sure of its being nothing buta common love letter, and you know young people like to be laughed atabout them. Lord! how concerned Sir John and my daughters will be whenthey hear it! If I had my senses about me I might have called inConduit Street in my way home, and told them of it. But I shall seethem to-morrow."

  "It would be unnecessary I am sure, for you to caution Mrs. Palmer andSir John against ever naming Mr. Willoughby, or making the slightestallusion to what has passed, before my sister. Their own good-naturemust point out to them the real cruelty of appearing to know any thingabout it when she is present; and the less that may ever be said tomyself on the subject, the more my feelings will be spared, as you mydear madam will easily believe."

  "Oh! Lord! yes, that I do indeed. It must be terrible for you to hearit talked of; and as for your sister, I am sure I would not mention aword about it to her for the world. You saw I did not all dinner time.No more would Sir John, nor my daughters, for they are all verythoughtful and considerate; especially if I give them a hint, as Icertainly will. For my part, I think the less that is said about suchthings, the better, the sooner 'tis blown over and forgot. And whatdoes talking ever do you know?"

  "In this affair it can only do harm; more so perhaps than in manycases of a similar kind, for it has been attended by circumstanceswhich, for the sake of every one concerned in it, make it unfit tobecome the public conversation. I must do _this_ justice to Mr.Willoughby--he has broken no positive engagement with my sister."

  "Law, my dear! Don't pretend to defend him. No positive engagementindeed! after taking her all over Allenham House, and fixing on thevery rooms they were to live in hereafter!"

  Elinor, for her sister's sake, could not press the subject farther,and she hoped it was not required of her for Willoughby's; since,though Marianne might lose much, he could gain very little by theenforcement of the real truth. After a short silence on both sides,Mrs. Jennings, with all her natural hilarity, burst forth again.

  "Well, my dear, 'tis a true saying about an ill wind, for it will beall the better for Colonel Brandon. He will have her at last; aye,that he will. Mind me, now, if they an't married by Mid-summer. Lord!how he'll chuckle over this news! I hope he will come tonight. It willbe all to one a better match for your sister. Two thousand a yearwithout debt or drawback--except the little love-child, indeed; aye, Ihad forgot her; but she may be 'prenticed out at a small cost, andthen what does it signify? Delaford is a nice place, I can tell you;exactly what I call a nice old fashioned place, full of comforts andconveniences; quite shut in with great garden walls that are coveredwith the best fruit-trees in the country; and such a mulberry tree inone corner! Lord! how Charlotte and I did stuff the only time we werethere! Then, there is a dovecote, some delightful stew-ponds, and avery pretty canal; and every thing, in short, that one could wish for;and, moreover, it is close to the church, and only a quarter of a milefrom the turnpike-road, so 'tis never dull, for if you only go and situp in an old yew arbour behind the house, you may see all thecarriages that pass along. Oh! 'tis a nice place! A butcher hard by inthe village, and the parsonage-house within a stone's throw. To myfancy, a thousand times prettier than Barton Park, where they areforced to send three miles for their meat, and have not a neighbournearer than your mother. Well, I shall spirit up the Colonel as soonas I can. One shoulder of mutton, you know, drives another down. If we_can_ but put Willoughby out of her head!"

  "Ay, if we can do that, Ma'am," said Elinor, "we shall do very wellwith or without Colonel Brandon." And then rising, she went away tojoin Marianne, whom she found, as she expected, in her own room,leaning, in silent misery, over the small remains of a fire, which,till Elinor's entrance, had been her only light.

  "You had better leave me," was all the notice that her sister receivedfrom her.

  "I will leave you," said Elinor, "if you will go to bed." But this,from the momentary perverseness of impatient suffering, she at firstrefused to do. Her sister's earnest, though gentle persuasion,however, soon softened her to compliance, and Elinor saw her lay heraching head on the pillow, and as she hoped, in a way to get somequiet rest before she left her.

  In the drawing-room, whither she then repaired, she was soon joined byMrs. Jennings, with a wine-glass, full of something, in her hand.

  "My dear," said she, entering, "I have just recollected that I havesome of the finest old Constantia wine in the house that ever wastasted, so I have brought a glass of it for your sister. My poorhusband! how fond he was of it! Whenever he had a touch of his oldcolicky gout, he said it did him more good than any thing else in theworld. Do take it to your sister."

  "Dear Ma'am," replied Elinor, smiling at the difference of thecomplaints for which it was recommended, "how good you are! But I havejust left Marianne in bed, and, I hope, almost asleep; and as I thinknothing will be of so much service to her as rest, if you will give meleave, I will drink the wine myself."

  Mrs. Jennings, though regretting that she had not been five minutesearlier, was satisfied with the compromise; and Elinor, as sheswallowed the chief of it, reflected, that though its effects on acolicky gout were, at present, of little importance to her, itshealing powers, on a disappointed heart might be as reasonably triedon herself as on her sister.

  Colonel Brandon came in while the party were at tea, and by his mannerof looking round the room for Marianne, Elinor immediately fanciedthat he neither expected nor wished to see her there, and, in short,that he was already aware of what occasioned her absence. Mrs.Jennings was not struck by the same thought; for soon after hisentrance, she walked across the room to the tea-table where Elinorpresided, and whispered, "The Colonel looks as grave as ever you see.He knows nothing of it; do tell him, my dear."

  "_How fond he was of it!_"]

  He shortly afterwards drew a chair close to her's, and, with a lookwhich perfectly assured her of his good information, inquired afterher sister.

  "Marianne is not well," said she. "She has been indisposed all day,and we have persuaded her to go to bed."

  "Perhaps, then," he hesitatingly replied, "what I heard this morningmay be--there may be more truth in it than I could believe possible atfirst."

  "What did you hear?"

  "That a gentleman, whom I had reason to think--in short, that a man,whom I _knew_ to be engaged--but how shall I tell you? If you know italready, as surely you must, I may be spared."

  "You mean," answered Elinor, with forced calmness, "Mr. Willoughby'smarriage with Miss Grey. Yes, we _do_ know it all. This seems to havebeen a day of general elucidation, for this very morning firstunfolded it to us. Mr. Willoughby is unfathomable! Where did you hearit?"

  "In a stationer's shop in Pall Mall, where I had business. Two ladieswere waiting for their carriage, and one of them was giving the otheran account of the intended match, in a voice so little attemptingconcealment, that it was impossible for me not to hear all. The nameof Willoughby, John Willoughby, frequently repeated, first caught myattention; and what followed was a positive assertion that every thingwas now finally settled respecting his marriage with Miss Grey--it wasno longer to be a secret--it would take place even within a few weeks,with many particulars of preparations and other matters. One thing,especially, I remember, because it served to identify the man stillmore:--as soon as the ceremony was over, they were to go to CombeMagna, his seat in Somersetshire. My astonishment!--but it would beimpossible to describe what I felt. The communicative lady I learnt,on inquiry,--for I stayed in the shop till they were gone,--was a Mrs.Ellison, and that, as I have been since informed, is the name of MissGrey's guardian."

  "It is. But have you likewise heard that Miss Grey has fifty thousandpounds? In that, if in any thing, we may find an explanation."

  "It may be so; but Willoughby is capable--at least I think--" Hestopped a moment; then added in a voice which seemed to distrustitself, "And your sister,--how did she,--"

  "Her sufferings have been very severe. I have only to hope that theymay be proportionately short. It has been, it is a most cruelaffliction. Till yesterday, I believe, she never doubted his regard;and even now, perhaps--but _I_ am almost convinced that he never wasreally attached to her. He has been very deceitful! and, in somepoints, there seems a hardness of heart about him."

  "Ah!" said Colonel Brandon, "there is, indeed! But your sister doesnot--I think you said so--she does not consider quite as you do?"

  "You know her disposition, and may believe how eagerly she would stilljustify him if she could."

  He made no answer; and soon afterwards, by the removal of thetea-things, and the arrangement of the card parties, the subject wasnecessarily dropped. Mrs. Jennings, who had watched them with pleasurewhile they were talking, and who expected to see the effect of MissDashwood's communication, in such an instantaneous gaiety on ColonelBrandon's side, as might have become a man in the bloom of youth, ofhope and happiness, saw him, with amazement, remain the whole eveningmore serious and thoughtful than usual.

 
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