Sense and sensibility, p.35
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.35
 

           Jane Austen

  CHAPTER XXXIII

  After some opposition, Marianne yielded to her sister's entreaties,and consented to go out with her and Mrs. Jennings one morning forhalf an hour. She expressly conditioned, however, for paying novisits, and would do no more than accompany them to Gray's inSackville Street, where Elinor was carrying on a negotiation for theexchange of a few old-fashioned jewels of her mother.

  When they stopped at the door, Mrs. Jennings recollected that therewas a lady at the other end of the street on whom she ought to call;and as she had no business at Gray's, it was resolved, that while heryoung friends transacted their's, she should pay her visit and returnfor them.

  On ascending the stairs, the Miss Dashwoods found so many peoplebefore them in the room, that there was not a person at liberty totend to their orders; and they were obliged to wait. All that could bedone was, to sit down at that end of the counter which seemed topromise the quickest succession; one gentleman only was standingthere, and it is probable that Elinor was not without hope of excitinghis politeness to a quicker despatch. But the correctness of his eye,and the delicacy of his taste, proved to be beyond his politeness. Hewas giving orders for a toothpick-case for himself, and till its size,shape, and ornaments were determined, all of which, after examiningand debating for a quarter of an hour over every toothpick-case in theshop, were finally arranged by his own inventive fancy, he had noleisure to bestow any other attention on the two ladies, than what wascomprised in three or four very broad stares; a kind of notice whichserved to imprint on Elinor the remembrance of a person and face, ofstrong, natural, sterling insignificance, though adorned in the firststyle of fashion.

  Marianne was spared from the troublesome feelings of contempt andresentment, on this impertinent examination of their features, and onthe puppyism of his manner in deciding on all the different horrors ofthe different toothpick-cases presented to his inspection, byremaining unconscious of it all; for she was as well able to collecther thoughts within herself, and be as ignorant of what was passingaround her, in Mr. Gray's shop, as in her own bedroom.

  At last the affair was decided. The ivory, the gold, and the pearls,all received their appointment, and the gentleman having named thelast day on which his existence could be continued without thepossession of the toothpick-case, drew on his gloves with leisurelycare, and bestowing another glance on the Miss Dashwoods, but such aone as seemed rather to demand than express admiration, walked offwith a happy air of real conceit and affected indifference.

  Elinor lost no time in bringing her business forward, was on the pointof concluding it, when another gentleman presented himself at herside. She turned her eyes towards his face, and found him with somesurprise to be her brother.

  _Introduced to Mrs. Jennings._]

  Their affection and pleasure in meeting was just enough to make a verycreditable appearance in Mr. Gray's shop. John Dashwood was really farfrom being sorry to see his sisters again; it rather gave themsatisfaction; and his inquiries after their mother were respectful andattentive.

  Elinor found that he and Fanny had been in town two days.

  "I wished very much to call upon you yesterday," said he, "but it wasimpossible, for we were obliged to take Harry to see the wild beastsat Exeter Exchange; and we spent the rest of the day with Mrs.Ferrars. Harry was vastly pleased. _This_ morning I had fully intendedto call on you, if I could possibly find a spare half hour, but onehas always so much to do on first coming to town. I am come here tobespeak Fanny a seal. But tomorrow I think I shall certainly be ableto call in Berkeley Street, and be introduced to your friend Mrs.Jennings. I understand she is a woman of very good fortune. And theMiddletons too, you must introduce me to _them_. As my mother-in-law'srelations, I shall be happy to show them every respect. They areexcellent neighbours to you in the country, I understand."

  "Excellent indeed. Their attention to our comfort, their friendlinessin every particular, is more than I can express."

  "I am extremely glad to hear it, upon my word; extremely glad indeed.But so it ought to be; they are people of large fortune, they arerelated to you, and every civility and accommodation that can serve tomake your situation pleasant might be reasonably expected. And so youare most comfortably settled in your little cottage and want fornothing! Edward brought us a most charming account of the place: themost complete thing of its kind, he said, that ever was, and you allseemed to enjoy it beyond any thing. It was a great satisfaction to usto hear it, I assure you."

  Elinor did feel a little ashamed of her brother; and was not sorry tobe spared the necessity of answering him, by the arrival of Mrs.Jennings's servant, who came to tell her that his mistress waited forthem at the door.

  Mr. Dashwood attended them down stairs, was introduced to Mrs.Jennings at the door of her carriage, and repeating his hope of beingable to call on them the next day, took leave.

  _Mrs. Jennings assured him directly that she should notstand upon ceremony._]

  His visit was duly paid. He came with a pretence at an apology fromtheir sister-in-law, for not coming too; "but she was so much engagedwith her mother, that really she had no leisure for going any where."Mrs. Jennings, however, assured him directly, that she should notstand upon ceremony, for they were all cousins, or something likeit, and she should certainly wait on Mrs. John Dashwood very soon, andbring her sisters to see her. His manners to _them_, though calm, wereperfectly kind; to Mrs. Jennings, most attentively civil; and onColonel Brandon's coming in soon after himself, he eyed him with acuriosity which seemed to say, that he only wanted to know him to berich, to be equally civil to _him._

  After staying with them half an hour, he asked Elinor to walk with himto Conduit Street, and introduce him to Sir John and Lady Middleton.The weather was remarkably fine, and she readily consented. As soon asthey were out of the house, his enquiries began.

  "Who is Colonel Brandon? Is he a man of fortune?"

  "Yes; he has very good property in Dorsetshire."

  "I am glad of it. He seems a most gentlemanlike man; and I think,Elinor, I may congratulate you on the prospect of a very respectableestablishment in life."

  "Me, brother! what do you mean?"

  "He likes you. I observed him narrowly, and am convinced of it. Whatis the amount of his fortune?"

  "I believe about two thousand a year."

  "Two thousand a-year;" and then working himself up to a pitch ofenthusiastic generosity, he added, "Elinor, I wish with all my heartit were _twice_ as much, for your sake."

  "Indeed I believe you," replied Elinor; "but I am very sure thatColonel Brandon has not the smallest wish of marrying _me._

  "You are mistaken, Elinor; you are very much mistaken. A very littletrouble on your side secures him. Perhaps just at present he may beundecided; the smallness of your fortune may make him hang back; hisfriends may all advise him against it. But some of those littleattentions and encouragements which ladies can so easily give will fixhim, in spite of himself. And there can be no reason why you shouldnot try for him. It is not to be supposed that any prior attachment onyour side--in short, you know as to an attachment of that kind, it isquite out of the question, the objections are insurmountable--you havetoo much sense not to see all that. Colonel Brandon must be the man;and no civility shall be wanting on my part to make him pleased withyou and your family. It is a match that must give universalsatisfaction. In short, it is a kind of thing that," lowering hisvoice to an important whisper, "will be exceedingly welcome to _allparties._" Recollecting himself, however, he added, "That is, I meanto say--your friends are all truly anxious to see you well settled;Fanny particularly, for she has your interest very much at heart, Iassure you. And her mother too, Mrs. Ferrars, a very good-naturedwoman, I am sure it would give her great pleasure; she said as muchthe other day."

  Elinor would not vouchsafe any answer.

  "It would be something remarkable, now," he continued, "somethingdroll, if Fanny should have a brother and I a sister settling at thesame time. And yet it is not very unlikel
y."

  "Is Mr. Edward Ferrars," said Elinor, with resolution, "going to bemarried?"

  "It is not actually settled, but there is such a thing in agitation.He has a most excellent mother. Mrs. Ferrars, with the utmostliberality, will come forward, and settle on him a thousand a year, ifthe match takes place. The lady is the Hon. Miss Morton, only daughterof the late Lord Morton, with thirty thousand pounds. A very desirableconnection on both sides, and I have not a doubt of its taking placein time. A thousand a-year is a great deal for a mother to give away,to make over for ever; but Mrs. Ferrars has a noble spirit. To giveyou another instance of her liberality:--The other day, as soon as wecame to town, aware that money could not be very plenty with us justnow, she put bank-notes into Fanny's hands to the amount of twohundred pounds. And extremely acceptable it is, for we must live at agreat expense while we are here."

  He paused for her assent and compassion; and she forced herself tosay--

  "Your expenses both in town and country must certainly beconsiderable; but your income is a large one."

  "Not so large, I dare say, as many people suppose. I do not mean tocomplain, however; it is undoubtedly a comfortable one, and I hopewill in time be better. The enclosure of Norland Common, now carryingon, is a most serious drain. And then I have made a little purchasewithin this half year; East Kingham Farm, you must remember the place,where old Gibson used to live. The land was so very desirable for mein every respect, so immediately adjoining my own property, that Ifelt it my duty to buy it. I could not have answered it to myconscience to let it fall into any other hands. A man must pay for hisconvenience; and it _has_ cost me a vast deal of money."

  "More than you think it really and intrinsically worth."

  "Why, I hope not that. I might have sold it again, the next day, formore than I gave: but, with regard to the purchase-money, I might havebeen very unfortunate indeed; for the stocks were at that time so low,that if I had not happened to have the necessary sum in my banker'shands, I must have sold out to very great loss."

  Elinor could only smile.

  "Other great and inevitable expenses too we have had on first comingto Norland. Our respected father, as you well know, bequeathed all theStanhill effects that remained at Norland (and very valuable theywere) to your mother. Far be it from me to repine at his doing so; hehad an undoubted right to dispose of his own property as he chose,but, in consequence of it, we have been obliged to make largepurchases of linen, china, &c. to supply the place of what was takenaway. You may guess, after all these expenses, how very far we must befrom being rich, and how acceptable Mrs. Ferrars's kindness is."

  "Certainly," said Elinor; "and assisted by her liberality, I hope youmay yet live to be in easy circumstances."

  "Another year or two may do much towards it," he gravely replied; "buthowever there is still a great deal to be done. There is not a stonelaid of Fanny's green-house, and nothing but the plan of theflower-garden marked out."

  "Where is the green-house to be?"

  "Upon the knoll behind the house. The old walnut trees are all comedown to make room for it. It will be a very fine object from manyparts of the park, and the flower-garden will slope down just beforeit, and be exceedingly pretty. We have cleared away all the old thornsthat grew in patches over the brow."

  Elinor kept her concern and her censure to herself; and was verythankful that Marianne was not present, to share the provocation.

  Having now said enough to make his poverty clear, and to do away thenecessity of buying a pair of ear-rings for each of his sisters, inhis next visit at Gray's his thoughts took a cheerfuller turn, and hebegan to congratulate Elinor on having such a friend as Mrs. Jennings.

  "She seems a most valuable woman indeed--Her house, her style ofliving, all bespeak an exceeding good income; and it is anacquaintance that has not only been of great use to you hitherto, butin the end may prove materially advantageous. Her inviting you to townis certainly a vast thing in your favour; and indeed, it speaksaltogether so great a regard for you, that in all probability when shedies you will not be forgotten. She must have a great deal to leave."

  "Nothing at all, I should rather suppose; for she has only herjointure, which will descend to her children."

  "But it is not to be imagined that she lives up to her income. Fewpeople of common prudence will do _that_; and whatever she saves, shewill be able to dispose of."

  "And do you not think it more likely that she should leave it to herdaughters, than to us?"

  "Her daughters are both exceedingly well married, and therefore Icannot perceive the necessity of her remembering them farther.Whereas, in my opinion, by her taking so much notice of you, andtreating you in this kind of way, she has given you a sort of claim onher future consideration, which a conscientious woman would notdisregard. Nothing can be kinder than her behaviour; and she canhardly do all this, without being aware of the expectation it raises."

  "But she raises none in those most concerned. Indeed, brother, youranxiety for our welfare and prosperity carries you too far."

  "Why, to be sure," said he, seeming to recollect himself, "people havelittle, have very little in their power. But, my dear Elinor, what isthe matter with Marianne?--she looks very unwell, has lost her colour,and is grown quite thin. Is she ill?"

  "She is not well, she has had a nervous complaint on her for severalweeks."

  "I am sorry for that. At her time of life, any thing of an illnessdestroys the bloom for ever! Her's has been a very short one! She wasas handsome a girl last September, as I ever saw; and as likely toattract the man. There was something in her style of beauty, toplease them particularly. I remember Fanny used to say that she wouldmarry sooner and better than you did; not but what she is exceedinglyfond of _you_, but so it happened to strike her. She will be mistaken,however. I question whether Marianne _now_, will marry a man worthmore than five or six hundred a-year, at the utmost, and I am verymuch deceived if _you_ do not do better. Dorsetshire! I know verylittle of Dorsetshire; but, my dear Elinor, I shall be exceedinglyglad to know more of it; and I think I can answer for your havingFanny and myself among the earliest and best pleased of yourvisitors."

  Elinor tried very seriously to convince him that there was nolikelihood of her marrying Colonel Brandon; but it was an expectationof too much pleasure to himself to be relinquished, and he was reallyresolved on seeking an intimacy with that gentleman, and promoting themarriage by every possible attention. He had just compunction enoughfor having done nothing for his sisters himself, to be exceedinglyanxious that everybody else should do a great deal; and an offer fromColonel Brandon, or a legacy from Mrs. Jennings, was the easiest meansof atoning for his own neglect.

  They were lucky enough to find Lady Middleton at home, and Sir Johncame in before their visit ended. Abundance of civilities passed onall sides. Sir John was ready to like anybody, and though Mr. Dashwooddid not seem to know much about horses, he soon set him down as a verygood-natured fellow: while Lady Middleton saw enough of fashion in hisappearance to think his acquaintance worth having; and Mr. Dashwoodwent away delighted with both.

  "I shall have a charming account to carry to Fanny," said he, as hewalked back with his sister. "Lady Middleton is really a most elegantwoman! Such a woman as I am sure Fanny will be glad to know. And Mrs.Jennings too, an exceedingly well-behaved woman, though not so elegantas her daughter. Your sister need not have any scruple even ofvisiting _her_, which, to say the truth, has been a little the case,and very naturally; for we only knew that Mrs. Jennings was the widowof a man who had got all his money in a low way; and Fanny and Mrs.Ferrars were both strongly prepossessed, that neither she nor herdaughters were such kind of women as Fanny would like to associatewith. But now I can carry her a most satisfactory account of both."

 
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