Sense and sensibility, p.43
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.43

          

  CHAPTER XLI

  Edward, having carried his thanks to Colonel Brandon, proceeded withhis happiness to Lucy; and such was the excess of it by the time hereached Bartlett's Buildings, that she was able to assure Mrs.Jennings, who called on her again the next day with hercongratulations, that she had never seen him in such spirits before inher life.

  Her own happiness, and her own spirits, were at least very certain;and she joined Mrs. Jennings most heartily in her expectation of theirbeing all comfortably together in Delaford Parsonage beforeMichaelmas. So far was she, at the same time, from any backwardness togive Elinor that credit which Edward _would_ give her, that she spokeof her friendship for them both with the most grateful warmth, wasready to own all their obligation to her, and openly declared that noexertion for their good on Miss Dashwood's part, either present orfuture, would ever surprise her, for she believed her capable of doingany thing in the world for those she really valued. As for ColonelBrandon, she was not only ready to worship him as a saint, but wasmoreover truly anxious that he should be treated as one in all worldlyconcerns; anxious that his tithes should be raised to the utmost; andscarcely resolved to avail herself, at Delaford, as far as shepossibly could, of his servants, his carriage, his cows, and hispoultry.

  It was now above a week since John Dashwood had called in BerkeleyStreet, and as since that time no notice had been taken by them of hiswife's indisposition, beyond one verbal enquiry, Elinor began to feelit necessary to pay her a visit. This was an obligation, however,which not only opposed her own inclination, but which had not theassistance of any encouragement from her companions. Marianne, notcontented with absolutely refusing to go herself, was very urgent toprevent her sister's going at all; and Mrs. Jennings, though hercarriage was always at Elinor's service, so very much disliked Mrs.John Dashwood, that not even her curiosity to see how she looked afterthe late discovery, nor her strong desire to affront her by takingEdward's part, could overcome her unwillingness to be in her companyagain. The consequence was, that Elinor set out by herself to pay avisit, for which no one could really have less inclination, and to runthe risk of a tete-a-tete with a woman, whom neither of the others hadso much reason to dislike.

  Mrs. Dashwood was denied; but before the carriage could turn from thehouse, her husband accidentally came out. He expressed great pleasurein meeting Elinor, told her that he had been just going to call inBerkeley Street, and, assuring her that Fanny would be very glad tosee her, invited her to come in.

  They walked up stairs in to the drawing-room. Nobody was there.

  "Fanny is in her own room, I suppose," said he:--"I will go to herpresently, for I am sure she will not have the least objection in theworld to seeing _you._ Very far from it, indeed. _Now_ especiallythere cannot be--but however, you and Marianne were always greatfavourites. Why would not Marianne come?"--

  Elinor made what excuse she could for her.

  "I am not sorry to see you alone," he replied, "for I have a good dealto say to you. This living of Colonel Brandon's--can it be true?--hashe really given it to Edward?--I heard it yesterday by chance, and wascoming to you on purpose to enquire farther about it."

  "It is perfectly true. Colonel Brandon has given the living ofDelaford to Edward."

  "Really!--Well, this is very astonishing!--no relationship!--noconnection between them!--and now that livings fetch such aprice!--what was the value of this?"

  "About two hundred a year."

  "Very well--and for the next presentation to a living of thatvalue--supposing the late incumbent to have been old and sickly, andlikely to vacate it soon--he might have got I dare say--fourteenhundred pounds. And how came he not to have settled that matter beforethis person's death? _Now_ indeed it would be too late to sell it, buta man of Colonel Brandon's sense!--I wonder he should be soimprovident in a point of such common, such natural, concern!--Well, Iam convinced that there is a vast deal of inconsistency in almostevery human character. I suppose, however--on recollection--that thecase may probably be _this._ Edward is only to hold the living tillthe person to whom the Colonel has really sold the presentation, isold enough to take it. Aye, aye, that is the fact, depend upon it."

  Elinor contradicted it, however, very positively; and by relating thatshe had herself been employed in conveying the offer from ColonelBrandon to Edward, and, therefore, must understand the terms on whichit was given, obliged him to submit to her authority.

  "It is truly astonishing!"--he cried, after hearing what shesaid--"what could be the Colonel's motive?"

  "A very simple one--to be of use to Mr. Ferrars."

  "Well, well; whatever Colonel Brandon may be, Edward is a very luckyman. You will not mention the matter to Fanny, however, for though Ihave broke it to her, and she bears it vastly well,--she will not liketo hear it much talked of."

  Elinor had some difficulty here to refrain from observing, that shethought Fanny might have borne with composure, an acquisition ofwealth to her brother, by which neither she nor her child could bepossibly impoverished.

  "Mrs. Ferrars," added he, lowering his voice to the tone becoming soimportant a subject, "knows nothing about it at present, and I believeit will be best to keep it entirely concealed from her as long as maybe. When the marriage takes place, I fear she must hear of it all."

  "But why should such precaution be used? Though it is not to besupposed that Mrs. Ferrars can have the smallest satisfaction inknowing that her son has money enough to live upon,--for _that_ mustbe quite out of the question; yet why, upon her late behaviour, is shesupposed to feel at all? She has done with her son, she cast him offfor ever, and has made all those over whom she had any influence, casthim off likewise. Surely, after doing so, she cannot be imaginedliable to any impression of sorrow or of joy on his account--shecannot be interested in any thing that befalls him. She would not beso weak as to throw away the comfort of a child, and yet retain theanxiety of a parent!"

  "Ah! Elinor," said John, "your reasoning is very good, but it isfounded on ignorance of human nature. When Edward's unhappy matchtakes place, depend upon it his mother will feel as much as if she hadnever discarded him; and, therefore every circumstance that mayaccelerate that dreadful event, must be concealed from her as much aspossible. Mrs. Ferrars can never forget that Edward is her son."

  "You surprise me; I should think it must nearly have escaped hermemory by _this_ time."

  "You wrong her exceedingly. Mrs. Ferrars is one of the mostaffectionate mothers in the world."

  Elinor was silent.

  "We think _now_,"--said Mr. Dashwood, after a short pause, "of_Robert's_ marrying Miss Morton."

  Elinor, smiling at the grave and decisive importance of her brother'stone, calmly replied--

  "The lady, I suppose, has no choice in the affair."

  "Choice!--how do you mean?"

  "I only mean that I suppose, from your manner of speaking, it must bethe same to Miss Morton whether she marry Edward or Robert."

  "Certainly, there can be no difference; for Robert will now to allintents and purposes be considered as the eldest son;--and as to anything else, they are both very agreeable young men: I do not know thatone is superior to the other."

  Elinor said no more, and John was also for a short time silent. Hisreflections ended thus.

  "Of _one_ thing, my dear sister," kindly taking her hand, and speakingin an awful whisper,--"I may assure you; and I _will_ do it, because Iknow it must gratify you. I have good reason to think--indeed I haveit from the best authority, or I should not repeat it, for otherwiseit would be very wrong to say any thing about it,--but I have it fromthe very best authority,--not that I ever precisely heard Mrs. Ferrarssay it herself--but her daughter _did_, and I have it from her,--thatin short, whatever objections there might be against a certain--acertain connection, you understand me,--it would have been farpreferable to her, it would not have given her half the vexation that_this_ does. I was exceedingly pleased to hear that Mrs. Ferrarsconsidered it in that light; a very gratifying circumstance you knowto us all. 'It would have been beyond comparison,' she said, 'theleast evil of the two, and she would be glad to compound _now_ fornothing worse.' But however, all that is quite out of thequestion,--not to be thought of or mentioned. As to any attachment youknow, it never could be; all that is gone by. But I thought I wouldjust tell you of this, because I knew how much it must please you. Notthat you have any reason to regret, my dear Elinor. There is no doubtof your doing exceedingly well,--quite as well, or better, perhaps,all things considered. Has Colonel Brandon been with you lately?"

  Elinor had heard enough, if not to gratify her vanity, and raise herself-importance, to agitate her nerves and fill her mind;--and she wastherefore glad to be spared from the necessity of saying much in replyherself, and from the danger of hearing any thing more from herbrother, by the entrance of Mr. Robert Ferrars. After a few moments'chat, John Dashwood, recollecting that Fanny was yet uninformed of hersister's being there, quitted the room in quest of her; and Elinor wasleft to improve her acquaintance with Robert, who, by the gayunconcern, the happy self-complacency of his manner while enjoying sounfair a division of his mother's love and liberality, to theprejudice of his banished brother, earned only by his own dissipatedcourse of life, and that brother's integrity, was confirming her mostunfavourable opinion of his head and heart.

  "_Of one thing I may assure you._"]

  They had scarcely been two minutes by themselves, before he began tospeak of Edward; for he, too, had heard of the living, and was veryinquisitive on the subject. Elinor repeated the particulars of it, asshe had given them to John; and their effect on Robert, though verydifferent, was not less striking than it had been on _him._ He laughedmost immoderately. The idea of Edward's being a clergyman, and livingin a small parsonage-house, diverted him beyond measure;--and when tothat was added the fanciful imagery of Edward reading prayers in awhite surplice, and publishing the banns of marriage between JohnSmith and Mary Brown, he could conceive nothing more ridiculous.

  Elinor, while she waited in silence and immovable gravity, theconclusion of such folly, could not restrain her eyes from being fixedon him with a look that spoke all the contempt it excited. It was alook, however, very well bestowed, for it relieved her own feelings,and gave no intelligence to him. He was recalled from wit to wisdom,not by any reproof of her's, but by his own sensibility.

  "We may treat it as a joke," said he, at last, recovering from theaffected laugh which had considerably lengthened out the genuinegaiety of the moment; "but, upon my soul, it is a most seriousbusiness. Poor Edward! he is ruined for ever. I am extremely sorry forit; for I know him to be a very good-hearted creature,--aswell-meaning a fellow perhaps, as any in the world. You must not judgeof him, Miss Dashwood, from _your_ slight acquaintance. Poor Edward!His manners are certainly not the happiest in nature. But we are notall born, you know, with the same powers,--the same address. Poorfellow! to see him in a circle of strangers! to be sure it waspitiable enough; but upon my soul, I believe he has as good a heart asany in the kingdom; and I declare and protest to you I never was soshocked in my life, as when it all burst forth. I could not believeit. My mother was the first person who told me of it; and I, feelingmyself called on to act with resolution, immediately said to her,--'Mydear madam, I do not know what you may intend to do on the occasion,but as for myself, I must say, that if Edward does marry this youngwoman, I never will see him again.' That was what I said immediately.I was most uncommonly shocked, indeed! Poor Edward! he has done forhimself completely,--shut himself out for ever from all decentsociety! but, as I directly said to my mother, I am not in the leastsurprised at it; from his style of education, it was always to beexpected. My poor mother was half frantic."

  "Have you ever seen the lady?"

  "Yes; once, while she was staying in this house, I happened to drop infor ten minutes; and I saw quite enough of her. The merest awkwardcountry girl, without style, or elegance, and almost without beauty. Iremember her perfectly. Just the kind of girl I should suppose likelyto captivate poor Edward. I offered immediately, as soon as my motherrelated the affair to me, to talk to him myself, and dissuade him fromthe match; but it was too late _then_, I found, to do any thing, forunluckily, I was not in the way at first, and knew nothing of it tillafter the breach had taken place, when it was not for me, you know, tointerfere. But had I been informed of it a few hours earlier, I thinkit is most probable that something might have been hit on. I certainlyshould have represented it to Edward in a very strong light. 'My dearfellow,' I should have said, 'consider what you are doing. You aremaking a most disgraceful connection, and such a one as your familyare unanimous in disapproving.' I cannot help thinking, in short, thatmeans might have been found. But now it is all too late. He must bestarved, you know, that is certain; absolutely starved."

  He had just settled this point with great composure, when the entranceof Mrs. John Dashwood put an end to the subject. But though _she_never spoke of it out of her own family, Elinor could see itsinfluence on her mind, in the something like confusion of countenancewith which she entered, and an attempt at cordiality in her behaviourto herself. She even proceeded so far as to be concerned to find thatElinor and her sister were so soon to leave town, as she had hoped tosee more of them;--an exertion in which her husband, who attended herinto the room, and hung enamoured over her accents, seemed todistinguish every thing that was most affectionate and graceful.

 
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