Sense and sensibility, p.40
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.40

          

  CHAPTER XXXVIII

  Mrs. Jennings was very warm in her praise of Edward's conduct, butonly Elinor and Marianne understood its true merit. _They_ only knewhow little he had had to tempt him to be disobedient, and how smallwas the consolation, beyond the consciousness of doing right, thatcould remain to him in the loss of friends and fortune. Elinor gloriedin his integrity; and Marianne forgave all his offences in compassionfor his punishment. But though confidence between them was, by thispublic discovery, restored to its proper state, it was not a subjecton which either of them were fond of dwelling when alone. Elinoravoided it upon principle, as tending to fix still more upon herthoughts, by the too warm, too positive assurances of Marianne, thatbelief of Edward's continued affection for herself which she ratherwished to do away; and Marianne's courage soon failed her, in tryingto converse upon a topic which always left her more dissatisfied withherself than ever, by the comparison it necessarily produced betweenElinor's conduct and her own.

  She felt all the force of that comparison; but not as her sister hadhoped, to urge her to exertion now; she felt it with all the pain ofcontinual self-reproach, regretted most bitterly that she had neverexerted herself before; but it brought only the torture of penitence,without the hope of amendment. Her mind was so much weakened that shestill fancied present exertion impossible, and therefore it onlydispirited her more.

  Nothing new was heard by them, for a day or two afterwards, of affairsin Harley Street, or Bartlett's Buildings. But though so much of thematter was known to them already, that Mrs. Jennings might have hadenough to do in spreading that knowledge farther, without seekingafter more, she had resolved from the first to pay a visit of comfortand inquiry to her cousins as soon as she could; and nothing but thehindrance of more visitors than usual, had prevented her going to themwithin that time.

  The third day succeeding their knowledge of the particulars, was sofine, so beautiful a Sunday as to draw many to Kensington Gardens,though it was only the second week in March. Mrs. Jennings and Elinorwere of the number; but Marianne, who knew that the Willoughbys wereagain in town, and had a constant dread of meeting them, chose ratherto stay at home, than venture into so public a place.

  An intimate acquaintance of Mrs. Jennings joined them soon after theyentered the Gardens, and Elinor was not sorry that by her continuingwith them, and engaging all Mrs. Jennings's conversation, she washerself left to quiet reflection. She saw nothing of the Willoughbys,nothing of Edward, and for some time nothing of anybody who could byany chance whether grave or gay, be interesting to her. But at lastshe found herself with some surprise, accosted by Miss Steele, who,though looking rather shy, expressed great satisfaction in meetingthem, and on receiving encouragement from the particular kindness ofMrs. Jennings, left her own party for a short time, to join their's.Mrs. Jennings immediately whispered to Elinor--

  "Get it all out of her, my dear. She will tell you any thing if youask. You see I cannot leave Mrs. Clarke."

  It was lucky, however, for Mrs. Jennings's curiosity and Elinor's too,that she would tell any thing _without_ being asked; for nothing wouldotherwise have been learnt.

  "I am so glad to meet you;" said Miss Steele, taking her familiarly bythe arm--"for I wanted to see you of all things in the world." Andthen lowering her voice, "I suppose Mrs. Jennings has heard all aboutit. Is she angry?"

  "Not at all, I believe, with you."

  "That is a good thing. And Lady Middleton, is _she_ angry?"

  "I cannot suppose it possible that she should."

  "I am monstrous glad of it. Good gracious! I have had such a time ofit! I never saw Lucy in such a rage in my life. She vowed at first shewould never trim me up a new bonnet, nor do any thing else for meagain, so long as she lived; but now she is quite come to, and we areas good friends as ever. Look, she made me this bow to my hat, and putin the feather last night. There now, _you_ are going to laugh at metoo. But why should not I wear pink ribbons? I do not care if it _is_the Doctor's favourite colour. I am sure, for my part, I should neverhave known he _did_ like it better than any other colour, if he hadnot happened to say so. My cousins have been so plaguing me! I declaresometimes I do not know which way to look before them."

  She had wandered away to a subject on which Elinor had nothing to say,and therefore soon judged it expedient to find her way back again tothe first.

  "Well, but Miss Dashwood," speaking triumphantly, "people may say whatthey choose about Mr. Ferrars's declaring he would not have Lucy, forit is no such thing I can tell you; and it is quite a shame for suchill-natured reports to be spread abroad. Whatever Lucy might thinkabout it herself, you know, it was no business of other people to setit down for certain."

  "I never heard any thing of the kind hinted at before, I assure you,"said Elinor.

  "_She put in the feather last night._"]

  "Oh, did not you? But it _was_ said, I know, very well, and by morethan one; for Miss Godby told Miss Sparks, that nobody in their sensescould expect Mr. Ferrars to give up a woman like Miss Morton, withthirty thousand pounds to her fortune, for Lucy Steele that hadnothing at all; and I had it from Miss Sparks myself. And besidesthat, my cousin Richard said himself, that when it came to the pointhe was afraid Mr. Ferrars would be off; and when Edward did not comenear us for three days, I could not tell what to think myself; and Ibelieve in my heart Lucy gave it up all for lost; for we came awayfrom your brother's Wednesday, and we saw nothing of him not allThursday, Friday, and Saturday, and did not know what was become ofhim. Once Lucy thought to write to him, but then her spirits roseagainst that. However this morning he came just as we came home fromchurch; and then it all came out, how he had been sent for Wednesdayto Harley Street, and been talked to by his mother and all of them,and how he had declared before them all that he loved nobody but Lucy,and nobody but Lucy would he have. And how he had been so worried bywhat passed, that as soon as he had went away from his mother's house,he had got upon his horse, and rid into the country, some where orother; and how he had stayed about at an inn all Thursday and Friday,on purpose to get the better of it. And after thinking it all over andover again, he said, it seemed to him as if, now he had no fortune,and no nothing at all, it would be quite unkind to keep her on to theengagement, because it must be for her loss, for he had nothing buttwo thousand pounds, and no hope of any thing else; and if he was togo into orders, as he had some thoughts, he could get nothing but acuracy, and how was they to live upon that?--He could not bear tothink of her doing no better, and so he begged, if she had the leastmind for it, to put an end to the matter directly, and leave him shiftfor himself. I heard him say all this as plain as could possibly be.And it was entirely for _her_ sake, and upon _her_ account, that hesaid a word about being off, and not upon his own. I will take my oathhe never dropt a syllable of being tired of her, or of wishing tomarry Miss Morton, or any thing like it. But, to be sure, Lucy wouldnot give ear to such kind of talking; so she told him directly (with agreat deal about sweet and love, you know, and all that--Oh, la! onecan't repeat such kind of things you know)--she told him directly, shehad not the least mind in the world to be off, for she could live withhim upon a trifle, and how little so ever he might have, she should bevery glad to have it all, you know, or something of the kind. So thenhe was monstrous happy, and talked on some time about what they shoulddo, and they agreed he should take orders directly, and they must waitto be married till he got a living. And just then I could not hear anymore, for my cousin called from below to tell me Mrs. Richardson wascome in her coach, and would take one of us to Kensington Gardens; soI was forced to go into the room and interrupt them, to ask Lucy ifshe would like to go, but she did not care to leave Edward; so I justrun up stairs and put on a pair of silk stockings and came off withthe Richardsons."

  "I do not understand what you mean by interrupting them," said Elinor;"you were all in the same room together, were not you?"

  "No, indeed, not us. La! Miss Dashwood, do you think people make lovewhen any body else is by? Oh, for shame!--To be sure you must knowbetter than that. (Laughing affectedly.)--No, no; they were shut up inthe drawing-room together, and all I heard was only by listening atthe door."

  "How!" cried Elinor; "have you been repeating to me what you onlylearnt yourself by listening at the door? I am sorry I did not know itbefore; for I certainly would not have suffered you to give meparticulars of a conversation which you ought not to have knownyourself. How could you behave so unfairly by your sister?"

  "Oh, la! there is nothing in _that._ I only stood at the door, andheard what I could. And I am sure Lucy would have done just the sameby me; for a year or two back, when Martha Sharpe and I had so manysecrets together, she never made any bones of hiding in a closet, orbehind a chimney-board, on purpose to hear what we said."

  Elinor tried to talk of something else; but Miss Steele could not bekept beyond a couple of minutes, from what was uppermost in her mind.

  _Listening at the door._]

  "Edward talks of going to Oxford soon," said she; "but now he islodging at No. --, Pall Mall. What an ill-natured woman his mother is,an't she? And your brother and sister were not very kind! However, Ishan't say anything against them to _you_; and to be sure they didsend us home in their own chariot, which was more than I looked for.And for my part, I was all in a fright for fear your sister should askus for the huswifes she had gave us a day or two before; but, however,nothing was said about them, and I took care to keep mine out ofsight. Edward have got some business at Oxford, he says; so he must gothere for a time; and after _that_, as soon as he can light upon aBishop, he will be ordained. I wonder what curacy he will get! Goodgracious! (giggling as she spoke) I'd lay my life I know what mycousins will say, when they hear of it. They will tell me I shouldwrite to the Doctor, to get Edward the curacy of his new living. Iknow they will; but I am sure I would not do such a thing for all theworld. 'La!' I shall say directly, 'I wonder how you could think ofsuch a thing? I write to the Doctor, indeed!'"

  "Well," said Elinor, "it is a comfort to be prepared against theworst. You have got your answer ready."

  Miss Steele was going to reply on the same subject, but the approachof her own party made another more necessary.

  "Oh, la! here come the Richardsons. I had a vast deal more to say toyou, but I must not stay away from them not any longer. I assure youthey are very genteel people. He makes a monstrous deal of money, andthey keep their own coach. I have not time to speak to Mrs. Jenningsabout it myself, but pray tell her I am quite happy to hear she is notin anger against us, and Lady Middleton the same; and if anythingshould happen to take you and your sister away, and Mrs. Jenningsshould want company, I am sure we should be very glad to come and staywith her for as long a time as she likes. I suppose Lady Middletonwon't ask us any more this bout. Good-bye; I am sorry Miss Marianne wasnot here. Remember me kindly to her. La! if you have not got yourspotted muslin on!--I wonder you was not afraid of its being torn."

  Such was her parting concern; for after this, she had time only to payher farewell compliments to Mrs. Jennings, before her company wasclaimed by Mrs. Richardson; and Elinor was left in possession ofknowledge which might feed her powers of reflection some time, thoughshe had learnt very little more than what had been already foreseenand foreplanned in her own mind. Edward's marriage with Lucy was asfirmly determined on, and the time of its taking place remained asabsolutely uncertain, as she had concluded it would be;--every thingdepended, exactly after her expectation, on his getting thatpreferment, of which, at present, there seemed not the smallestchance.

  As soon as they returned to the carriage, Mrs. Jennings was eager forinformation; but as Elinor wished to spread as little as possibleintelligence that had in the first place been so unfairly obtained,she confined herself to the brief repetition of such simpleparticulars, as she felt assured that Lucy, for the sake of her ownconsequence, would choose to have known. The continuance of theirengagement, and the means that were able to be taken for promoting itsend, was all her communication; and this produced from Mrs. Jenningsthe following natural remark:--

  "Wait for his having a living!--ay, we all know how _that_ willend:--they will wait a twelvemonth, and finding no good comes of it,will set down upon a curacy of fifty pounds a-year, with the interestof his two thousand pounds, and what little matter Mr. Steele and Mr.Pratt can give her. Then they will have a child every year! and Lordhelp 'em! how poor they will be!--I must see what I can give themtowards furnishing their house. Two maids and two men, indeed!--as Italked of t'other day. No, no, they must get a stout girl of allworks. Betty's sister would never do for them _now._"

  The next morning brought Elinor a letter by the two-penny post fromLucy herself. It was as follows:

  "Bartlett's Building, March.

  "I hope my dear Miss Dashwood will excuse the liberty I take of writing to her; but I know your friendship for me will make you pleased to hear such a good account of myself and my dear Edward, after all the troubles we have went through lately, therefore will make no more apologies, but proceed to say that, thank God! though we have suffered dreadfully, we are both quite well now, and as happy as we must always be in one another's love. We have had great trials, and great persecutions, but however, at the same time, gratefully acknowledge many friends, yourself not the least among them, whose great kindness I shall always thankfully remember, as will Edward too, who I have told of it. I am sure you will be glad to hear, as likewise dear Mrs. Jennings, I spent two happy hours with him yesterday afternoon, he would not hear of our parting, though earnestly did I, as I thought my duty required, urge him to it for prudence sake, and would have parted for ever on the spot, would he consent to it; but he said it should never be, he did not regard his mother's anger, while he could have my affections; our prospects are not very bright, to be sure, but we must wait, and hope for the best; he will be ordained shortly; and should it ever be in your power to recommend him to any body that has a living to bestow, am very sure you will not forget us, and dear Mrs. Jennings too, trust she will speak a good word for us to Sir John, or Mr. Palmer, or any friend that may be able to assist us. Poor Anne was much to blame for what she did, but she did it for the best, so I say nothing; hope Mrs. Jennings won't think it too much trouble to give us a call, should she come this way any morning, 'twould be a great kindness, and my cousins would be proud to know her. My paper reminds me to conclude; and begging to be most gratefully and respectfully remembered to her, and to Sir John, and Lady Middleton, and the dear children, when you chance to see them, and love to Miss Marianne,

  "I am, etc., etc."

  As soon as Elinor had finished it, she performed what she concluded tobe its writer's real design, by placing it in the hands of Mrs.Jennings, who read it aloud with many comments of satisfaction andpraise.

  "Very well indeed!--how prettily she writes!--aye, that was quiteproper to let him be off if he would. That was just like Lucy. Poorsoul! I wish I _could_ get him a living, with all my heart. She callsme dear Mrs. Jennings, you see. She is a good-hearted girl as everlived. Very well upon my word. That sentence is very prettily turned.Yes, yes, I will go and see her, sure enough. How attentive she is, tothink of every body!--Thank you, my dear, for showing it me. It is aspretty a letter as ever I saw, and does Lucy's head and heart greatcredit."

 
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