Sense and sensibility, p.34
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.34

           Jane Austen


  When the particulars of this conversation were repeated by MissDashwood to her sister, as they very soon were, the effect on her wasnot entirely such as the former had hoped to see. Not that Marianneappeared to distrust the truth of any part of it, for she listened toit all with the most steady and submissive attention, made neitherobjection nor remark, attempted no vindication of Willoughby, andseemed to show by her tears that she felt it to be impossible. Butthough this behaviour assured Elinor that the conviction of this guilt_was_ carried home to her mind, though she saw with satisfaction theeffect of it, in her no longer avoiding Colonel Brandon when hecalled, in her speaking to him, even voluntarily speaking, with a kindof compassionate respect, and though she saw her spirits lessviolently irritated than before, she did not see her less wretched.Her mind did become settled, but it was settled in a gloomy dejection.She felt the loss of Willoughby's character yet more heavily than shehad felt the loss of his heart; his seduction and desertion of MissWilliams, the misery of that poor girl, and the doubt of what hisdesigns might _once_ have been on herself, preyed altogether so muchon her spirits, that she could not bring herself to speak of what shefelt even to Elinor; and, brooding over her sorrows in silence, gavemore pain to her sister than could have been communicated by the mostopen and most frequent confession of them.

  To give the feelings or the language of Mrs. Dashwood on receiving andanswering Elinor's letter would be only to give a repetition of whather daughters had already felt and said; of a disappointment hardlyless painful than Marianne's, and an indignation even greater thanElinor's. Long letters from her, quickly succeeding each other,arrived to tell all that she suffered and thought; to express heranxious solicitude for Marianne, and entreat she would bear up withfortitude under this misfortune. Bad indeed must the nature ofMarianne's affliction be, when her mother could talk of fortitude!mortifying and humiliating must be the origin of those regrets, which_she_ could wish her not to indulge!

  Against the interest of her own individual comfort, Mrs. Dashwood haddetermined that it would be better for Marianne to be any where, atthat time, than at Barton, where every thing within her view would bebringing back the past in the strongest and most afflicting manner, byconstantly placing Willoughby before her, such as she had always seenhim there. She recommended it to her daughters, therefore, by allmeans not to shorten their visit to Mrs. Jennings; the length ofwhich, though never exactly fixed, had been expected by all tocomprise at least five or six weeks. A variety of occupations, ofobjects, and of company, which could not be procured at Barton, wouldbe inevitable there, and might yet, she hoped, cheat Marianne, attimes, into some interest beyond herself, and even into someamusement, much as the ideas of both might now be spurned by her.

  From all danger of seeing Willoughby again, her mother considered herto be at least equally safe in town as in the country, since hisacquaintance must now be dropped by all who called themselves herfriends. Design could never bring them in each other's way: negligencecould never leave them exposed to a surprise; and chance had less inits favour in the crowd of London than even in the retirement ofBarton, where it might force him before her while paying that visit atAllenham on his marriage, which Mrs. Dashwood, from foreseeing atfirst as a probable event, had brought herself to expect as a certainone.

  She had yet another reason for wishing her children to remain wherethey were; a letter from her son-in-law had told her that he and hiswife were to be in town before the middle of February, and she judgedit right that they should sometimes see their brother.

  Marianne had promised to be guided by her mother's opinion, and shesubmitted to it therefore without opposition, though it provedperfectly different from what she wished and expected, though she feltit to be entirely wrong, formed on mistaken grounds, and that byrequiring her longer continuance in London it deprived her of the onlypossible alleviation of her wretchedness, the personal sympathy of hermother, and doomed her to such society and such scenes as must preventher ever knowing a moment's rest.

  But it was a matter of great consolation to her, that what broughtevil to herself would bring good to her sister; and Elinor, on theother hand, suspecting that it would not be in her power to avoidEdward entirely, comforted herself by thinking, that though theirlonger stay would therefore militate against her own happiness, itwould be better for Marianne than an immediate return into Devonshire.

  Her carefulness in guarding her sister from ever hearing Willoughby'sname mentioned, was not thrown away. Marianne, though without knowingit herself, reaped all its advantage; for neither Mrs. Jennings, norSir John, nor even Mrs. Palmer herself, ever spoke of him before her.Elinor wished that the same forbearance could have extended towardsherself, but that was impossible, and she was obliged to listen dayafter day to the indignation of them all.

  Sir John, could not have thought it possible. "A man of whom he hadalways had such reason to think well! Such a good-natured fellow! Hedid not believe there was a bolder rider in England! It was anunaccountable business. He wished him at the devil with all his heart.He would not speak another word to him, meet him where he might, forall the world! No, not if it were to be by the side of Barton covert,and they were kept watching for two hours together. Such a scoundrelof a fellow! such a deceitful dog! It was only the last time they metthat he had offered him one of Folly's puppies! and this was the endof it!"

  Mrs. Palmer, in her way, was equally angry. "She was determined todrop his acquaintance immediately, and she was very thankful that shehad never been acquainted with him at all. She wished with all herheart Combe Magna was not so near Cleveland; but it did not signify,for it was a great deal too far off to visit; she hated him so muchthat she was resolved never to mention his name again, and she shouldtell everybody she saw, how good-for-nothing he was."

  The rest of Mrs. Palmer's sympathy was shown in procuring all theparticulars in her power of the approaching marriage, andcommunicating them to Elinor. She could soon tell at what coachmaker'sthe new carriage was building, by what painter Mr. Willoughby'sportrait was drawn, and at what warehouse Miss Grey's clothes might beseen.

  _Offered him one of Folly's puppies._]

  The calm and polite unconcern of Lady Middleton on the occasion was ahappy relief to Elinor's spirits, oppressed as they often were bythe clamorous kindness of the others. It was a great comfort to her tobe sure of exciting no interest in _one_ person at least among theircircle of friends: a great comfort to know that there was _one_ whowould meet her without feeling any curiosity after particulars, or anyanxiety for her sister's health.

  Every qualification is raised at times, by the circumstances of themoment, to more than its real value; and she was sometimes worrieddown by officious condolence to rate good-breeding as moreindispensable to comfort than good-nature.

  Lady Middleton expressed her sense of the affair about once every day,or twice, if the subject occurred very often, by saying, "It is veryshocking, indeed!" and by the means of this continual though gentlevent, was able not only to see the Miss Dashwoods from the firstwithout the smallest emotion, but very soon to see them withoutrecollecting a word of the matter; and having thus supported thedignity of her own sex, and spoken her decided censure of what waswrong in the other, she thought herself at liberty to attend to theinterest of her own assemblies, and therefore determined (thoughrather against the opinion of Sir John) that as Mrs. Willoughby wouldat once be a woman of elegance and fortune, to leave her card with heras soon as she married.

  Colonel Brandon's delicate, unobtrusive enquiries were never unwelcometo Miss Dashwood. He had abundantly earned the privilege of intimatediscussion of her sister's disappointment, by the friendly zeal withwhich he had endeavoured to soften it, and they always conversed withconfidence. His chief reward for the painful exertion of disclosingpast sorrows and present humiliations, was given in the pitying eyewith which Marianne sometimes observed him, and the gentleness of hervoice whenever (though it did not often happen) she was obliged, orc
ould oblige herself to speak to him. _These_ assured him that hisexertion had produced an increase of good-will towards himself, and_these_ gave Elinor hopes of its being farther augmented hereafter;but Mrs. Jennings, who knew nothing of all this, who knew only thatthe Colonel continued as grave as ever, and that she could neitherprevail on him to make the offer himself, nor commission her to makeit for him, began, at the end of two days, to think that, instead ofMid-summer, they would not be married till Michaelmas, and by the endof a week that it would not be a match at all. The good understandingbetween the Colonel and Miss Dashwood seemed rather to declare thatthe honours of the mulberry-tree, the canal, and the yew arbour, wouldall be made over to _her_; and Mrs. Jennings had, for some time ceasedto think at all of Mrs. Ferrars.

  Early in February, within a fortnight from the receipt of Willoughby'sletter, Elinor had the painful office of informing her sister that hewas married. She had taken care to have the intelligence conveyed toherself, as soon as it was known that the ceremony was over, as shewas desirous that Marianne should not receive the first notice of itfrom the public papers, which she saw her eagerly examining everymorning.

  She received the news with resolute composure; made no observation onit, and at first shed no tears; but after a short time they wouldburst out, and for the rest of the day, she was in a state hardly lesspitiable than when she first learnt to expect the event.

  The Willoughbys left town as soon as they were married; and Elinor nowhoped, as there could be no danger of her seeing either of them, toprevail on her sister, who had never yet left the house since the blowfirst fell, to go out again by degrees as she had done before.

  About this time the two Miss Steeles, lately arrived at their cousin'shouse in Bartlett's Buildings, Holborn, presented themselves againbefore their more grand relations in Conduit and Berkeley Streets; andwere welcomed by them all with great cordiality.

  Elinor only was sorry to see them. Their presence always gave herpain, and she hardly knew how to make a very gracious return to theoverpowering delight of Lucy in finding her _still_ in town.

  "I should have been quite disappointed if I had not found you here_still_," said she repeatedly, with a strong emphasis on the word."But I always thought I _should_ I was almost sure you would not leaveLondon yet awhile; though you _told_ me, you know, at Barton, that youshould not stay above a _month._ But I thought, at the time, that youwould most likely change your mind when it came to the point. It wouldhave been such a great pity to have went away before your brother andsister came. And now to be sure you will be in no _hurry_ to be gone.I am amazingly glad you did not keep to _your word._"

  Elinor perfectly understood her, and was forced to use all herself-command to make it appear that she did _not._

  "Well, my dear," said Mrs. Jennings, "and how did you travel?"

  "Not in the stage, I assure you," replied Miss Steele, with quickexultation; "we came post all the way, and had a very smart beau toattend us. Dr. Davies was coming to town, and so we thought we'd joinhim in a post-chaise; and he behaved very genteelly, and paid ten ortwelve shillings more than we did."

  "Oh, oh!" cried Mrs. Jennings; "very pretty, indeed! and the Doctor isa single man, I warrant you."

  "There now," said Miss Steele, affectedly simpering, "everybody laughsat me so about the Doctor, and I cannot think why. My cousins say theyare sure I have made a conquest; but for my part I declare I neverthink about him from one hour's end to another. 'Lord! here comes yourbeau, Nancy,' my cousin said t'other day, when she saw him crossingthe street to the house. My beau, indeed! said I--I cannot think whoyou mean. The Doctor is no beau of mine."

  "Aye, aye, that is very pretty talking--but it won't do--the Doctor isthe man, I see."

  "No, indeed!" replied her cousin, with affected earnestness, "and Ibeg you will contradict it, if you ever hear it talked of."

  Mrs. Jennings directly gave her the gratifying assurance that shecertainly would _not_, and Miss Steele was made completely happy.

  "I suppose you will go and stay with your brother and sister, MissDashwood, when they come to town," said Lucy, returning, after acessation of hostile hints, to the charge.

  "No, I do not think we shall."

  "Oh, yes, I dare say you will."

  Elinor would not humour her by farther opposition.

  "What a charming thing it is that Mrs. Dashwood can spare you both forso long a time together!"

  "Long a time, indeed!" interposed Mrs. Jennings. "Why, their visit isbut just begun!"

  _A very smart beau._]

  Lucy was silenced.

  "I am sorry we cannot see your sister, Miss Dashwood," said MissSteele. "I am sorry she is not well--" for Marianne had left the roomon their arrival.

  "You are very good. My sister will be equally sorry to miss thepleasure of seeing you; but she has been very much plagued lately withnervous head-aches, which make her unfit for company or conversation."

  "Oh, dear, that is a great pity! but such old friends as Lucy andme!--I think she might see _us_; and I am sure we would not speak aword."

  Elinor, with great civility, declined the proposal. Her sister wasperhaps laid down upon the bed, or in her dressing gown, and thereforenot able to come to them.

  "Oh, if that's all," cried Miss Steele, "we can just as well go andsee _her._"

  Elinor began to find this impertinence too much for her temper; butshe was saved the trouble of checking it, by Lucy's sharp reprimand,which now, as on many occasions, though it did not give much sweetnessto the manners of one sister, was of advantage in governing those ofthe other.

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