Sense and sensibility, p.41
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.41
 

           Jane Austen

  CHAPTER XXXIX

  The Miss Dashwoods had now been rather more than two months in town,and Marianne's impatience to be gone increased every day. She sighedfor the air, the liberty, the quiet of the country; and fancied thatif any place could give her ease, Barton must do it. Elinor was hardlyless anxious than herself for their removal, and only so much lessbent on its being effected immediately, as that she was conscious ofthe difficulties of so long a journey, which Marianne could not bebrought to acknowledge. She began, however, seriously to turn herthoughts towards its accomplishment, and had already mentioned theirwishes to their kind hostess, who resisted them with all the eloquenceof her good-will, when a plan was suggested, which, though detainingthem from home yet a few weeks longer, appeared to Elinor altogethermuch more eligible than any other. The Palmers were to remove toCleveland about the end of March, for the Easter holidays; and Mrs.Jennings, with both her friends, received a very warm invitation fromCharlotte to go with them. This would not, in itself, have beensufficient for the delicacy of Miss Dashwood;--but it was enforcedwith so much real politeness by Mr. Palmer himself, as, joined to thevery great amendment of his manners towards them since her sister hadbeen known to be unhappy, induced her to accept it with pleasure.

  When she told Marianne what she had done, however, her first reply wasnot very auspicious.

  "Cleveland!"--she cried, with great agitation. "No, I cannot go toCleveland."--

  "You forget," said Elinor gently, "that its situation is not--that itis not in the neighbourhood of--"

  "But it is in Somersetshire. I cannot go into Somersetshire. There,where I looked forward to going;--no, Elinor, you cannot expect me togo there."

  Elinor would not argue upon the propriety of overcoming suchfeelings;--she only endeavoured to counteract them by working onothers;--represented it, therefore, as a measure which would fix thetime of her returning to that dear mother, whom she so much wished tosee, in a more eligible, more comfortable manner, than any other plancould do, and perhaps without any greater delay. From Cleveland, whichwas within a few miles of Bristol, the distance to Barton was notbeyond one day, though a long day's journey; and their mother'sservant might easily come there to attend them down; and as therecould be no occasion of their staying above a week at Cleveland, theymight now be at home in little more than three weeks' time. AsMarianne's affection for her mother was sincere, it must triumph withlittle difficulty, over the imaginary evils she had started.

  Mrs. Jennings was so far from being weary of her guest, that shepressed them very earnestly to return with her again from Cleveland.Elinor was grateful for the attention, but it could not alter herdesign; and their mother's concurrence being readily gained, everything relative to their return was arranged as far as it couldbe;--and Marianne found some relief in drawing up a statement of thehours that were yet to divide her from Barton.

  "Ah! Colonel, I do not know what you and I shall do without the MissDashwoods;"--was Mrs. Jennings's address to him when he first calledon her, after their leaving her was settled--"for they are quiteresolved upon going home from the Palmers;--and how forlorn we shallbe, when I come back!--Lord! we shall sit and gape at one another asdull as two cats."

  Perhaps Mrs. Jennings was in hopes, by this vigorous sketch of theirfuture ennui, to provoke him to make that offer, which might givehimself an escape from it; and if so, she had soon afterwards goodreason to think her object gained; for, on Elinor's moving to thewindow to take more expeditiously the dimensions of a print, which shewas going to copy for her friend, he followed her to it with a look ofparticular meaning, and conversed with her there for several minutes.The effect of his discourse on the lady too, could not escape herobservation, for though she was too honorable to listen, and had evenchanged her seat, on purpose that she might _not_ hear, to one closeby the piano forte on which Marianne was playing, she could not keepherself from seeing that Elinor changed colour, attended withagitation, and was too intent on what he said to pursue heremployment. Still farther in confirmation of her hopes, in theinterval of Marianne's turning from one lesson to another, some wordsof the Colonel's inevitably reached her ear, in which he seemed to beapologising for the badness of his house. This set the matter beyond adoubt. She wondered, indeed, at his thinking it necessary to do so;but supposed it to be the proper etiquette. What Elinor said in replyshe could not distinguish, but judged from the motion of her lips,that she did not think _that_ any material objection;--and Mrs.Jennings commended her in her heart for being so honest. They thentalked on for a few minutes longer without her catching a syllable,when another lucky stop in Marianne's performance brought her thesewords in the Colonel's calm voice,--

  "I am afraid it cannot take place very soon."

  Astonished and shocked at so unlover-like a speech, she was almostready to cry out, "Lord! what should hinder it?"--but checking herdesire, confined herself to this silent ejaculation.

  "This is very strange!--sure he need not wait to be older."

  This delay on the Colonel's side, however, did not seem to offend ormortify his fair companion in the least, for on their breaking up theconference soon afterwards, and moving different ways, Mrs. Jenningsvery plainly heard Elinor say, and with a voice which showed her tofeel what she said--

  "I shall always think myself very much obliged to you."

  Mrs. Jennings was delighted with her gratitude, and only wondered thatafter hearing such a sentence, the Colonel should be able to takeleave of them, as he immediately did, with the utmost sang-froid, andgo away without making her any reply!--She had not thought her oldfriend could have made so indifferent a suitor.

  What had really passed between them was to this effect.

  "I have heard," said he, with great compassion, "of the injustice yourfriend Mr. Ferrars has suffered from his family; for if I understandthe matter right, he has been entirely cast off by them forpersevering in his engagement with a very deserving young woman. HaveI been rightly informed?--Is it so?--"

  Elinor told him that it was.

  "The cruelty, the impolitic cruelty,"--he replied, with greatfeeling,--"of dividing, or attempting to divide, two young peoplelong attached to each other, is terrible. Mrs. Ferrars does not knowwhat she may be doing--what she may drive her son to. I have seen Mr.Ferrars two or three times in Harley Street, and am much pleased withhim. He is not a young man with whom one can be intimately acquaintedin a short time, but I have seen enough of him to wish him well forhis own sake, and as a friend of yours, I wish it still more. Iunderstand that he intends to take orders. Will you be so good as totell him that the living of Delaford, now just vacant, as I aminformed by this day's post, is his, if he think it worth hisacceptance--but _that_, perhaps, so unfortunately circumstanced as heis now, it may be nonsense to appear to doubt; I only wish it weremore valuable. It is a rectory, but a small one; the late incumbent, Ibelieve, did not make more than 200 L per annum, and though it iscertainly capable of improvement, I fear, not to such an amount as toafford him a very comfortable income. Such as it is, however, mypleasure in presenting him to it, will be very great. Pray assure himof it."

  Elinor's astonishment at this commission could hardly have beengreater, had the Colonel been really making her an offer of his hand.The preferment, which only two days before she had considered ashopeless for Edward, was already provided to enable him to marry;--and_she_, of all people in the world, was fixed on to bestow it!--Heremotion was such as Mrs. Jennings had attributed to a very differentcause;--but whatever minor feelings less pure, less pleasing, mighthave a share in that emotion, her esteem for the general benevolence,and her gratitude for the particular friendship, which togetherprompted Colonel Brandon to this act, were strongly felt, and warmlyexpressed. She thanked him for it with all her heart, spoke ofEdward's principles and disposition with that praise which she knewthem to deserve; and promised to undertake the commission withpleasure, if it were really his wish to put off so agreeable an officeto another. But at the same time, she could not help thin
king that noone could so well perform it as himself. It was an office in short,from which, unwilling to give Edward the pain of receiving anobligation from _her_, she would have been very glad to be sparedherself; but Colonel Brandon, on motives of equal delicacy, decliningit likewise, still seemed so desirous of its being given through hermeans, that she would not on any account make farther opposition.Edward, she believed, was still in town, and fortunately she had heardhis address from Miss Steele. She could undertake therefore to informhim of it, in the course of the day. After this had been settled,Colonel Brandon began to talk of his own advantage in securing sorespectable and agreeable a neighbour, and _then_ it was that hementioned with regret, that the house was small and indifferent; anevil which Elinor, as Mrs. Jennings had supposed her to do, made verylight of, at least as far as regarded its size.

  "The smallness of the house," said she, "I cannot imagine anyinconvenience to them, for it will be in proportion to their familyand income."

  By which the Colonel was surprised to find that _she_ was consideringMr. Ferrars's marriage as the certain consequence of the presentation;for he did not suppose it possible that Delaford living could supplysuch an income, as anybody in his style of life would venture tosettle on, and he said so.

  "This little rectory _can_ do no more than make Mr. Ferrarscomfortable as a bachelor; it cannot enable him to marry. I am sorryto say that my patronage ends with this; and my interest is hardlymore extensive. If, however, by an unforeseen chance it should be inmy power to serve him farther, I must think very differently of himfrom what I now do, if I am not as ready to be useful to him then as Isincerely wish I could be at present. What I am now doing indeed,seems nothing at all, since it can advance him so little towards whatmust be his principal, his only object of happiness. His marriage muststill be a distant good;--at least, I am afraid it cannot take placevery soon."

  Such was the sentence which, when misunderstood, so justly offendedthe delicate feelings of Mrs. Jennings; but after this narration ofwhat really passed between Colonel Brandon and Elinor, while theystood at the window, the gratitude expressed by the latter on theirparting, may perhaps appear in general, not less reasonably excited,nor less properly worded than if it had arisen from an offer ofmarriage.

 
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