Sense and sensibility, p.42
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.42
 

           Jane Austen

  CHAPTER XL

  "Well, Miss Dashwood," said Mrs. Jennings, sagaciously smiling, assoon as the gentleman had withdrawn, "I do not ask you what theColonel has been saying to you; for though, upon my honour, I _tried_to keep out of hearing, I could not help catching enough to understandhis business. And I assure you I never was better pleased in my life,and I wish you joy of it with all my heart."

  "Thank you, ma'am," said Elinor. "It is a matter of great joy to me;and I feel the goodness of Colonel Brandon most sensibly. There arenot many men who would act as he has done. Few people who have socompassionate a heart! I never was more astonished in my life."

  "Lord! my dear, you are very modest. I an't the least astonished at itin the world, for I have often thought of late, there was nothing morelikely to happen."

  "You judged from your knowledge of the Colonel's general benevolence;but at least you could not foresee that the opportunity would so verysoon occur."

  "Opportunity!" repeated Mrs. Jennings--"Oh! as to that, when a man hasonce made up his mind to such a thing, somehow or other he will soonfind an opportunity. Well, my dear, I wish you joy of it again andagain; and if ever there was a happy couple in the world, I think Ishall soon know where to look for them."

  "You mean to go to Delaford after them I suppose," said Elinor, with afaint smile.

  "Aye, my dear, that I do, indeed. And as to the house being a bad one,I do not know what the Colonel would be at, for it is as good a one asever I saw."

  "He spoke of its being out of repair."

  "Well, and whose fault is that? why don't he repair it? who should doit but himself?"

  They were interrupted by the servant's coming in to announce thecarriage being at the door; and Mrs. Jennings immediately preparing togo, said--

  "Well, my dear, I must be gone before I have had half my talk out.But, however, we may have it all over in the evening; for we shall bequite alone. I do not ask you to go with me, for I dare say your mindis too full of the matter to care for company; and besides, you mustlong to tell your sister all about it."

  Marianne had left the room before the conversation began.

  "Certainly, ma'am, I shall tell Marianne of it; but I shall notmention it at present to any body else."

  "Oh! very well," said Mrs. Jennings rather disappointed. "Then youwould not have me tell it to Lucy, for I think of going as far asHolborn to-day."

  "No, ma'am, not even Lucy if you please. One day's delay will not bevery material; and till I have written to Mr. Ferrars, I think itought not to be mentioned to any body else. I shall do _that_directly. It is of importance that no time should be lost with him,for he will of course have much to do relative to his ordination."

  This speech at first puzzled Mrs. Jennings exceedingly. Why Mr.Ferrars was to have been written to about it in such a hurry, shecould not immediately comprehend. A few moments' reflection, however,produced a very happy idea, and she exclaimed--

  "Oh, ho! I understand you. Mr. Ferrars is to be the man. Well, so muchthe better for him. Ay, to be sure, he must be ordained in readiness;and I am very glad to find things are so forward between you. But, mydear, is not this rather out of character? Should not the Colonelwrite himself? Sure, he is the proper person."

  Elinor did not quite understand the beginning of Mrs. Jennings'sspeech, neither did she think it worth inquiring into; and thereforeonly replied to its conclusion.

  "Colonel Brandon is so delicate a man, that he rather wished any oneto announce his intentions to Mr. Ferrars than himself."

  "And so _you_ are forced to do it. Well _that_ is an odd kind ofdelicacy! However, I will not disturb you (seeing her preparing towrite.) You know your own concerns best. So good-bye, my dear. I havenot heard of any thing to please me so well since Charlotte wasbrought to bed."

  And away she went; but returning again in a moment--

  "I have just been thinking of Betty's sister, my dear. I should bevery glad to get her so good a mistress. But whether she would do fora lady's maid, I am sure I can't tell. She is an excellent housemaid,and works very well at her needle. However, you will think of all thatat your leisure."

  "Certainly, ma'am," replied Elinor, not hearing much of what she said,and more anxious to be alone, than to be mistress of the subject.

  How she should begin--how she should express herself in her note toEdward, was now all her concern. The particular circumstances betweenthem made a difficulty of that which to any other person would havebeen the easiest thing in the world; but she equally feared to say toomuch or too little, and sat deliberating over her paper, with the penin her hand, till broken in on by the entrance of Edward himself.

  He had met Mrs. Jennings at the door in her way to the carriage, as hecame to leave his farewell card; and she, after apologising for notreturning herself, had obliged him to enter, by saying that MissDashwood was above, and wanted to speak with him on very particularbusiness.

  Elinor had just been congratulating herself, in the midst of herperplexity, that however difficult it might be to express herselfproperly by letter, it was at least preferable to giving theinformation by word of mouth, when her visitor entered, to force herupon this greatest exertion of all. Her astonishment and confusionwere very great on his so sudden appearance. She had not seen himbefore since his engagement became public, and therefore not since hisknowing her to be acquainted with it; which, with the consciousness ofwhat she had been thinking of, and what she had to tell him, made herfeel particularly uncomfortable for some minutes. He too was muchdistressed; and they sat down together in a most promising state ofembarrassment. Whether he had asked her pardon for his intrusion onfirst coming into the room, he could not recollect; but determining tobe on the safe side, he made his apology in form as soon as he couldsay any thing, after taking a chair.

  "Mrs. Jennings told me," said he, "that you wished to speak with me,at least I understood her so--or I certainly should not have intrudedon you in such a manner; though at the same time, I should have beenextremely sorry to leave London without seeing you and your sister;especially as it will most likely be some time--it is not probablethat I should soon have the pleasure of meeting you again. I go toOxford tomorrow."

  "You would not have gone, however," said Elinor, recovering herself,and determined to get over what she so much dreaded as soon aspossible, "without receiving our good wishes, even if we had not beenable to give them in person. Mrs. Jennings was quite right in what shesaid. I have something of consequence to inform you of, which I was onthe point of communicating by paper. I am charged with a mostagreeable office (breathing rather faster than usual as she spoke.)Colonel Brandon, who was here only ten minutes ago, has desired me tosay, that understanding you mean to take orders, he has great pleasurein offering you the living of Delaford now just vacant, and onlywishes it were more valuable. Allow me to congratulate you on havingso respectable and well-judging a friend, and to join in his wish thatthe living--it is about two hundred a-year--were much moreconsiderable, and such as might better enable you to--as might be morethan a temporary accommodation to yourself--such, in short, as mightestablish all your views of happiness."

  What Edward felt, as he could not say it himself, it cannot beexpected that any one else should say for him. He _looked_ all theastonishment which such unexpected, such unthought-of informationcould not fail of exciting; but he said only these two words--

  "Colonel Brandon!"

  "Yes," continued Elinor, gathering more resolution, as some of theworst was over, "Colonel Brandon means it as a testimony of hisconcern for what has lately passed--for the cruel situation in whichthe unjustifiable conduct of your family has placed you--a concernwhich I am sure Marianne, myself, and all your friends, must share;and likewise as a proof of his high esteem for your general character,and his particular approbation of your behaviour on the presentoccasion."

  "Colonel Brandon give _me_ a living!--Can it be possible?"

  "The unkindness of your own relations has made you astonished to findfrie
ndship any where."

  "No," replied be, with sudden consciousness, "not to find it in _you_;for I cannot be ignorant that to you, to your goodness, I owe it all.I feel it--I would express it if I could--but, as you well know, I amno orator."

  "You are very much mistaken. I do assure you that you owe it entirely,at least almost entirely, to your own merit, and Colonel Brandon'sdiscernment of it. I have had no hand in it. I did not even know, tillI understood his design, that the living was vacant; nor had it everoccurred to me that he might have had such a living in his gift. As afriend of mine, of my family, he may, perhaps--indeed I know he _has_,still greater pleasure in bestowing it; but, upon my word, you owenothing to my solicitation."

  Truth obliged her to acknowledge some small share in the action, butshe was at the same time so unwilling to appear as the benefactress ofEdward, that she acknowledged it with hesitation; which probablycontributed to fix that suspicion in his mind which had recentlyentered it. For a short time he sat deep in thought, after Elinor hadceased to speak;--at last, and as if it were rather an effort, hesaid--

  "Colonel Brandon seems a man of great worth and respectability. I havealways heard him spoken of as such, and your brother I know esteemshim highly. He is undoubtedly a sensible man, and in his mannersperfectly the gentleman."

  "Indeed," replied Elinor, "I believe that you will find him, onfarther acquaintance, all that you have heard him to be, and as youwill be such very near neighbours (for I understand the parsonage isalmost close to the mansion-house,) it is particularly important thathe _should_ be all this."

  Edward made no answer; but when she had turned away her head, gave hera look so serious, so earnest, so uncheerful, as seemed to say, thathe might hereafter wish the distance between the parsonage and themansion-house much greater.

  "Colonel Brandon, I think, lodges in St. James Street," said he, soonafterwards, rising from his chair.

  Elinor told him the number of the house.

  "I must hurry away then, to give him those thanks which you will notallow me to give _you_; to assure him that he has made me a very--anexceedingly happy man."

  Elinor did not offer to detain him; and they parted, with a veryearnest assurance on _her_ side of her unceasing good wishes for hishappiness in every change of situation that might befall him; on_his_, with rather an attempt to return the same good will, than thepower of expressing it.

  "When I see him again," said Elinor to herself, as the door shut himout, "I shall see him the husband of Lucy."

  And with this pleasing anticipation, she sat down to reconsider thepast, recall the words and endeavour to comprehend all the feelings ofEdward; and, of course, to reflect on her own with discontent.

  When Mrs. Jennings came home, though she returned from seeing peoplewhom she had never seen before, and of whom therefore she must have agreat deal to say, her mind was so much more occupied by the importantsecret in her possession, than by anything else, that she reverted toit again as soon as Elinor appeared.

  "Well, my dear," she cried, "I sent you up the young man. Did not I doright?--And I suppose you had no great difficulty--You did not findhim very unwilling to accept your proposal?"

  "No, ma'am; _that_ was not very likely."

  "Well, and how soon will he be ready?--For it seems all to depend uponthat."

  "Really," said Elinor, "I know so little of these kind of forms, thatI can hardly even conjecture as to the time, or the preparationnecessary; but I suppose two or three months will complete hisordination."

  "Two or three months!" cried Mrs. Jennings; "Lord! my dear, how calmlyyou talk of it; and can the Colonel wait two or three months! Lordbless me!--I am sure it would put _me_ quite out of patience!--Andthough one would be very glad to do a kindness by poor Mr. Ferrars, Ido think it is not worth while to wait two or three months for him.Sure somebody else might be found that would do as well; somebody thatis in orders already."

  "My dear ma'am," said Elinor, "what can you be thinking of? Why,Colonel Brandon's only object is to be of use to Mr. Ferrars."

  "Lord bless you, my dear! Sure you do not mean to persuade me that theColonel only marries you for the sake of giving ten guineas to Mr.Ferrars!"

  _Both gained considerable amusement_]

  The deception could not continue after this; and an explanationimmediately took place, by which both gained considerable amusementfor the moment, without any material loss of happiness to either, forMrs. Jennings only exchanged one form of delight for another, andstill without forfeiting her expectation of the first.

  "Aye, aye, the parsonage is but a small one," said she, after thefirst ebullition of surprise and satisfaction was over, "and verylikely _may_ be out of repair; but to hear a man apologising, as Ithought, for a house that to my knowledge has five sitting rooms onthe ground-floor, and I think the housekeeper told me could make upfifteen beds! and to you too, that had been used to live in Bartoncottage! It seems quite ridiculous. But, my dear, we must touch up theColonel to do some thing to the parsonage, and make it comfortable forthem, before Lucy goes to it."

  "But Colonel Brandon does not seem to have any idea of the living'sbeing enough to allow them to marry."

  "The Colonel is a ninny, my dear; because he has two thousand a-yearhimself, he thinks that nobody else can marry on less. Take my wordfor it, that, if I am alive, I shall be paying a visit at DelafordParsonage before Michaelmas; and I am sure I shan't go if Lucy an'tthere."

  Elinor was quite of her opinion, as to the probability of their notwaiting for any thing more.

 
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