Sense and sensibility, p.37
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.37
 

           Jane Austen

  CHAPTER XXXV

  Elinor's curiosity to see Mrs. Ferrars was satisfied. She had found inher every thing that could tend to make a farther connection betweenthe families undesirable. She had seen enough of her pride, hermeanness, and her determined prejudice against herself, to comprehendall the difficulties that must have perplexed the engagement, andretarded the marriage, of Edward and herself, had he been otherwisefree;--and she had seen almost enough to be thankful for her _own_sake, that one greater obstacle preserved her from suffering under anyother of Mrs. Ferrars's creation, preserved her from all dependenceupon her caprice, or any solicitude for her good opinion. Or at least,if she did not bring herself quite to rejoice in Edward's beingfettered to Lucy, she determined, that had Lucy been more amiable, she_ought_ to have rejoiced.

  She wondered that Lucy's spirits could be so very much elevated by thecivility of Mrs. Ferrars;--that her interest and her vanity should sovery much blind her as to make the attention which seemed only paidher because she was _not Elinor_ appear a compliment to herself--or toallow her to derive encouragement from a preference only given her,because her real situation was unknown. But that it was so, had notonly been declared by Lucy's eyes at the time, but was declared overagain the next morning more openly, for at her particular desire, LadyMiddleton set her down in Berkeley Street on the chance of seeingElinor alone, to tell her how happy she was.

  The chance proved a lucky one, for a message from Mrs. Palmer soonafter she arrived, carried Mrs. Jennings away.

  "My dear friend," cried Lucy, as soon as they were by themselves, "Icome to talk to you of my happiness. Could anything be so flatteringas Mrs. Ferrars's way of treating me yesterday? So exceeding affableas she was! You know how I dreaded the thoughts of seeing her; but thevery moment I was introduced, there was such an affability in herbehaviour as really should seem to say, she had quite took a fancy tome. Now was not it so? You saw it all; and was not you quite struckwith it?"

  "She was certainly very civil to you."

  "Civil!--Did you see nothing but only civility?--I saw a vast dealmore. Such kindness as fell to the share of nobody but me!--No pride,no hauteur, and your sister just the same--all sweetness andaffability!"

  Elinor wished to talk of something else, but Lucy still pressed her toown that she had reason for her happiness; and Elinor was obliged togo on.

  "Undoubtedly, if they had known your engagement," said she, "nothingcould be more flattering than their treatment of you;--but as that wasnot the case--"

  "I guessed you would say so," replied Lucy quickly--"but there was noreason in the world why Mrs. Ferrars should seem to like me, if shedid not, and her liking me is every thing. You shan't talk me out ofmy satisfaction. I am sure it will all end well, and there will be nodifficulties at all, to what I used to think. Mrs. Ferrars is acharming woman, and so is your sister. They are both delightful women,indeed!--I wonder I should never hear you say how agreeable Mrs.Dashwood was!"

  To this Elinor had no answer to make, and did not attempt any.

  "Are you ill, Miss Dashwood?--you seem low--you don't speak;--sure youan't well."

  "I never was in better health."

  "I am glad of it with all my heart; but really you did not look it. Ishould be sorry to have _you_ ill; you, that have been the greatestcomfort to me in the world!--Heaven knows what I should have donewithout your friendship."--

  Elinor tried to make a civil answer, though doubting her own success.But it seemed to satisfy Lucy, for she directly replied--

  "Indeed I am perfectly convinced of your regard for me, and next toEdward's love, it is the greatest comfort I have. Poor Edward!--Butnow there is one good thing, we shall be able to meet, and meet prettyoften, for Lady Middleton's delighted with Mrs. Dashwood, so we shallbe a good deal in Harley Street, I dare say, and Edward spends halfhis time with his sister--besides, Lady Middleton and Mrs. Ferrarswill visit now;--and Mrs. Ferrars and your sister were both so goodto say more than once, they should always be glad to see me. They aresuch charming women!--I am sure if ever you tell your sister what Ithink of her, you cannot speak too high."

  But Elinor would not give her any encouragement to hope that she_should_ tell her sister. Lucy continued.

  "I am sure I should have seen it in a moment, if Mrs. Ferrars had tooka dislike to me. If she had only made me a formal courtesy, forinstance, without saying a word, and never after had took any noticeof me, and never looked at me in a pleasant way--you know what Imean--if I had been treated in that forbidding sort of way, I shouldhave gave it all up in despair. I could not have stood it. For whereshe _does_ dislike, I know it is most violent."

  Elinor was prevented from making any reply to this civil triumph, bythe door's being thrown open, the servant's announcing Mr. Ferrars,and Edward's immediately walking in.

  It was a very awkward moment; and the countenance of each showed thatit was so. They all looked exceedingly foolish; and Edward seemed tohave as great an inclination to walk out of the room again, as toadvance farther into it. The very circumstance, in its unpleasantestform, which they would each have been most anxious to avoid, hadfallen on them. They were not only all three together, but weretogether without the relief of any other person. The ladies recoveredthemselves first. It was not Lucy's business to put herself forward,and the appearance of secrecy must still be kept up. She couldtherefore only _look_ her tenderness, and after slightly addressinghim, said no more.

  But Elinor had more to do; and so anxious was she, for his sake andher own, to do it well, that she forced herself, after a moment'srecollection, to welcome him, with a look and manner that were almosteasy, and almost open; and another struggle, another effort stillimproved them. She would not allow the presence of Lucy, nor theconsciousness of some injustice towards herself, to deter her fromsaying that she was happy to see him, and that she had very muchregretted being from home, when he called before in Berkeley Street.She would not be frightened from paying him those attentions which, asa friend and almost a relation, were his due, by the observant eyesof Lucy, though she soon perceived them to be narrowly watching her.

  Her manners gave some re-assurance to Edward, and he had courageenough to sit down; but his embarrassment still exceeded that of theladies in a proportion, which the case rendered reasonable, though hissex might make it rare; for his heart had not the indifference ofLucy's, nor could his conscience have quite the ease of Elinor's.

  Lucy, with a demure and settled air, seemed determined to make nocontribution to the comfort of the others, and would not say a word;and almost every thing that _was_ said, proceeded from Elinor, who wasobliged to volunteer all the information about her mother's health,their coming to town, &c. which Edward ought to have inquired about,but never did.

  Her exertions did not stop here; for she soon afterwards felt herselfso heroically disposed as to determine, under pretence of fetchingMarianne, to leave the others by themselves; and she really did it,and _that_ in the handsomest manner, for she loitered away severalminutes on the landing-place, with the most high-minded fortitude,before she went to her sister. When that was once done, however, itwas time for the raptures of Edward to cease; for Marianne's joyhurried her into the drawing-room immediately. Her pleasure in seeinghim was like every other of her feelings, strong in itself, andstrongly spoken. She met him with a hand that would be taken, and avoice that expressed the affection of a sister.

  "Dear Edward!" she cried, "this is a moment of great happiness!--Thiswould almost make amends for every thing!"

  Edward tried to return her kindness as it deserved, but before suchwitnesses he dared not say half what he really felt. Again they allsat down, and for a moment or two all were silent; while Marianne waslooking with the most speaking tenderness, sometimes at Edward andsometimes at Elinor, regretting only that their delight in each othershould be checked by Lucy's unwelcome presence. Edward was the firstto speak, and it was to notice Marianne's altered looks, and expresshis fear of her not finding London agree with her.

/>   "Oh, don't think of me!" she replied with spirited earnestness, thoughher eyes were filled with tears as she spoke, "don't think of _my_health. Elinor is well, you see. That must be enough for us both."

  This remark was not calculated to make Edward or Elinor more easy, norto conciliate the good will of Lucy, who looked up at Marianne with novery benignant expression.

  "Do you like London?" said Edward, willing to say any thing that mightintroduce another subject.

  "Not at all. I expected much pleasure in it, but I have found none.The sight of you, Edward, is the only comfort it has afforded; andthank Heaven! you are what you always were!"

  She paused--no one spoke.

  "I think, Elinor," she presently added, "we must employ Edward to takecare of us in our return to Barton. In a week or two, I suppose, weshall be going; and, I trust, Edward will not be very unwilling toaccept the charge."

  Poor Edward muttered something, but what it was, nobody knew, not evenhimself. But Marianne, who saw his agitation, and could easily traceit to whatever cause best pleased herself, was perfectly satisfied,and soon talked of something else.

  "We spent such a day, Edward, in Harley Street yesterday! So dull, sowretchedly dull!--But I have much to say to you on that head, whichcannot be said now."

  And with this admirable discretion did she defer the assurance of herfinding their mutual relatives more disagreeable than ever, and of herbeing particularly disgusted with his mother, till they were more inprivate.

  "But why were you not there, Edward?--Why did you not come?"

  "I was engaged elsewhere."

  "Engaged! But what was that, when such friends were to be met?"

  "Perhaps, Miss Marianne," cried Lucy, eager to take some revenge onher, "you think young men never stand upon engagements, if they haveno mind to keep them, little as well as great."

  Elinor was very angry, but Marianne seemed entirely insensible of thesting; for she calmly replied--

  "Not so, indeed; for, seriously speaking, I am very sure thatconscience only kept Edward from Harley Street. And I really believehe _has_ the most delicate conscience in the world; the mostscrupulous in performing every engagement, however minute, and howeverit may make against his interest or pleasure. He is the most fearfulof giving pain, of wounding expectation, and the most incapable ofbeing selfish, of any body I ever saw. Edward, it is so, and I willsay it. What! are you never to hear yourself praised!--Then you mustbe no friend of mine; for those who will accept of my love and esteem,must submit to my open commendation."

  The nature of her commendation, in the present case, however, happenedto be particularly ill-suited to the feelings of two thirds of herauditors, and was so very unexhilarating to Edward, that he very soongot up to go away.

  "Going so soon!" said Marianne; "my dear Edward, this must not be."

  And drawing him a little aside, she whispered her persuasion that Lucycould not stay much longer. But even this encouragement failed, for hewould go; and Lucy, who would have outstayed him, had his visit lastedtwo hours, soon afterwards went away.

  "What can bring her here so often?" said Marianne, on her leavingthem. "Could not she see that we wanted her gone!--how teasing toEdward!"

  "Why so?--we were all his friends, and Lucy has been the longest knownto him of any. It is but natural that he should like to see her aswell as ourselves."

  Marianne looked at her steadily, and said, "You know, Elinor, thatthis is a kind of talking which I cannot bear. If you only hope tohave your assertion contradicted, as I must suppose to be the case,you ought to recollect that I am the last person in the world to doit. I cannot descend to be tricked out of assurances, that are notreally wanted."

  She then left the room; and Elinor dared not follow her to say more,for bound as she was by her promise of secrecy to Lucy, she could giveno information that would convince Marianne; and painful as theconsequences of her still continuing in an error might be, she wasobliged to submit to it. All that she could hope, was that Edwardwould not often expose her or himself to the distress of hearingMarianne's mistaken warmth, nor to the repetition of any other part ofthe pain that had attended their recent meeting--and this she hadevery reason to expect.

  _Drawing him a little aside._]

 
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