Sense and sensibility, p.45
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.45

           Jane Austen
 

  CHAPTER XLIII

  Marianne got up the next morning at her usual time; to every inquiryreplied that she was better, and tried to prove herself so, byengaging in her accustomary employments. But a day spent in sittingshivering over the fire with a book in her hand, which she was unableto read, or in lying, weary and languid, on a sofa, did not speak muchin favour of her amendment; and when, at last, she went early to bed,more and more indisposed, Colonel Brandon was only astonished at hersister's composure, who, though attending and nursing her the wholeday, against Marianne's inclination, and forcing proper medicines onher at night, trusted, like Marianne, to the certainty and efficacy ofsleep, and felt no real alarm.

  A very restless and feverish night, however, disappointed theexpectation of both; and when Marianne, after persisting in rising,confessed herself unable to sit up, and returned voluntarily to herbed, Elinor was very ready to adopt Mrs. Jennings's advice, of sendingfor the Palmers' apothecary.

  He came, examined his patient, and though encouraging Miss Dashwood toexpect that a very few days would restore her sister to health, yet,by pronouncing her disorder to have a putrid tendency, and allowingthe word "infection" to pass his lips, gave instant alarm to Mrs.Palmer, on her baby's account. Mrs. Jennings, who had been inclinedfrom the first to think Marianne's complaint more serious than Elinor,now looked very grave on Mr. Harris's report, and confirmingCharlotte's fears and caution, urged the necessity of her immediateremoval with her infant; and Mr. Palmer, though treating theirapprehensions as idle, found the anxiety and importunity of his wifetoo great to be withstood. Her departure, therefore, was fixed on; andwithin an hour after Mr. Harris's arrival, she set off, with herlittle boy and his nurse, for the house of a near relation of Mr.Palmer's, who lived a few miles on the other side of Bath; whither herhusband promised, at her earnest entreaty, to join her in a day ortwo; and whither she was almost equally urgent with her mother toaccompany her. Mrs. Jennings, however, with a kindness of heart whichmade Elinor really love her, declared her resolution of not stirringfrom Cleveland as long as Marianne remained ill, and of endeavouring,by her own attentive care, to supply to her the place of the mothershe had taken her from; and Elinor found her on every occasion a mostwilling and active helpmate, desirous to share in all her fatigues,and often by her better experience in nursing, of material use.

  Poor Marianne, languid and low from the nature of her malady, andfeeling herself universally ill, could no longer hope that tomorrowwould find her recovered; and the idea of what tomorrow would haveproduced, but for this unlucky illness, made every ailment severe; foron that day they were to have begun their journey home; and, attendedthe whole way by a servant of Mrs. Jennings, were to have taken theirmother by surprise on the following forenoon. The little she said wasall in lamentation of this inevitable delay; though Elinor tried toraise her spirits, and make her believe, as she _then_ really believedherself, that it would be a very short one.

  The next day produced little or no alteration in the state of thepatient; she certainly was not better, and, except that there was noamendment, did not appear worse. Their party was now farther reduced;for Mr. Palmer, though very unwilling to go as well from real humanityand good-nature, as from a dislike of appearing to be frightened awayby his wife, was persuaded at last by Colonel Brandon to perform hispromise of following her; and while he was preparing to go, ColonelBrandon himself, with a much greater exertion, began to talk of goinglikewise. Here, however, the kindness of Mrs. Jennings interposed mostacceptably; for to send the Colonel away while his love was in so muchuneasiness on her sister's account, would be to deprive them both, shethought, of every comfort; and therefore telling him at once that hisstay at Cleveland was necessary to herself, that she should want himto play at piquet of an evening, while Miss Dashwood was above withher sister, &c. she urged him so strongly to remain, that he, who wasgratifying the first wish of his own heart by a compliance, could notlong even affect to demur; especially as Mrs. Jennings's entreaty waswarmly seconded by Mr. Palmer, who seemed to feel a relief to himself,in leaving behind him a person so well able to assist or advise MissDashwood in any emergence.

  Marianne was, of course, kept in ignorance of all these arrangements.She knew not that she had been the means of sending the owners ofCleveland away, in about seven days from the time of their arrival. Itgave her no surprise that she saw nothing of Mrs. Palmer; and as itgave her likewise no concern, she never mentioned her name.

  Two days passed away from the time of Mr. Palmer's departure, and hersituation continued, with little variation, the same. Mr. Harris, whoattended her every day, still talked boldly of a speedy recovery, andMiss Dashwood was equally sanguine; but the expectation of the otherswas by no means so cheerful. Mrs. Jennings had determined very earlyin the seizure that Marianne would never get over it, and ColonelBrandon, who was chiefly of use in listening to Mrs. Jennings'sforebodings, was not in a state of mind to resist their influence. Hetried to reason himself out of fears, which the different judgment ofthe apothecary seemed to render absurd; but the many hours of each dayin which he was left entirely alone, were but too favourable for theadmission of every melancholy idea, and he could not expel from hismind the persuasion that he should see Marianne no more.

  On the morning of the third day however, the gloomy anticipations ofboth were almost done away; for when Mr. Harris arrived, he declaredhis patient materially better. Her pulse was much stronger, and everysymptom more favourable than on the preceding visit. Elinor, confirmedin every pleasant hope, was all cheerfulness; rejoicing that in herletters to her mother, she had pursued her own judgment rather thanher friend's, in making very light of the indisposition which delayedthem at Cleveland; and almost fixing on the time when Marianne wouldbe able to travel.

  But the day did not close so auspiciously as it began. Towards theevening Marianne became ill again, growing more heavy, restless, anduncomfortable than before. Her sister, however, still sanguine, waswilling to attribute the change to nothing more than the fatigue ofhaving sat up to have her bed made; and carefully administering thecordials prescribed, saw her, with satisfaction, sink at last into aslumber, from which she expected the most beneficial effects. Hersleep, though not so quiet as Elinor wished to see it, lasted aconsiderable time; and anxious to observe the result of it herself,she resolved to sit with her during the whole of it. Mrs. Jennings,knowing nothing of any change in the patient, went unusually early tobed; her maid, who was one of the principal nurses, was recreatingherself in the housekeeper's room, and Elinor remained alone withMarianne.

  The repose of the latter became more and more disturbed; and hersister, who watched, with unremitting attention her continual changeof posture, and heard the frequent but inarticulate sounds ofcomplaint which passed her lips, was almost wishing to rouse her fromso painful a slumber, when Marianne, suddenly awakened by someaccidental noise in the house, started hastily up, and, with feverishwildness, cried out,--

  "Is mama coming?--"

  "Not yet," cried the other, concealing her terror, and assistingMarianne to lie down again, "but she will be here, I hope, before itis long. It is a great way, you know, from hence to Barton."

  "But she must not go round by London," cried Marianne, in the samehurried manner. "I shall never see her, if she goes by London."

  Elinor perceived with alarm that she was not quite herself, and, whileattempting to soothe her, eagerly felt her pulse. It was lower andquicker than ever! and Marianne, still talking wildly of mama, heralarm increased so rapidly, as to determine her on sending instantlyfor Mr. Harris, and despatching a messenger to Barton for her mother.To consult with Colonel Brandon on the best means of effecting thelatter, was a thought which immediately followed the resolution of itsperformance; and as soon she had rung up the maid to take her place byher sister, she hastened down to the drawing-room, where she knew hewas generally to be found at a much later hour than the present.

  It was no time for hesitation. Her fears and her difficulties wereimmediat
ely before him. Her fears, he had no courage, no confidence toattempt the removal of; he listened to them in silent despondence; buther difficulties were instantly obviated, for with a readiness thatseemed to speak the occasion, and the service pre-arranged in hismind, he offered himself as the messenger who should fetch Mrs.Dashwood. Elinor made no resistance that was not easily overcome. Shethanked him with brief, though fervent gratitude, and while he went tohurry off his servant with a message to Mr. Harris, and an order forpost-horses directly, she wrote a few lines to her mother.

  The comfort of such a friend at that moment as Colonel Brandon--orsuch a companion for her mother,--how gratefully was it felt!--acompanion whose judgment would guide, whose attendance must relieve,and whose friendship might soothe her!--as far as the shock of such asummons _could_ be lessened to her, his presence, his manners, hisassistance, would lessen it.

  _He_, meanwhile, whatever he might feel, acted with all the firmnessof a collected mind, made every necessary arrangement with the utmostdespatch, and calculated with exactness the time in which she mightlook for his return. Not a moment was lost in delay of any kind. Thehorses arrived, even before they were expected, and Colonel Brandononly pressing her hand with a look of solemnity, and a few wordsspoken too low to reach her ear, hurried into the carriage. It wasthen about twelve o'clock, and she returned to her sister's apartmentto wait for the arrival of the apothecary, and to watch by her therest of the night. It was a night of almost equal suffering to both.Hour after hour passed away in sleepless pain and delirium onMarianne's side, and in the most cruel anxiety on Elinor's, before Mr.Harris appeared. Her apprehensions once raised, paid by their excessfor all her former security; and the servant who sat up with her, forshe would not allow Mrs. Jennings to be called, only tortured hermore, by hints of what her mistress had always thought.

  Marianne's ideas were still, at intervals, fixed incoherently on hermother, and whenever she mentioned her name, it gave a pang to theheart of poor Elinor, who, reproaching herself for having trifled withso many days of illness, and wretched for some immediate relief,fancied that all relief might soon be in vain, that every thing hadbeen delayed too long, and pictured to herself her suffering motherarriving too late to see this darling child, or to see her rational.

  She was on the point of sending again for Mr. Harris, or if _he_ couldnot come, for some other advice, when the former--but not till afterfive o'clock--arrived. His opinion, however, made some little amendsfor his delay, for though acknowledging a very unexpected andunpleasant alteration in his patient, he would not allow the danger tobe material, and talked of the relief which a fresh mode of treatmentmust procure, with a confidence which, in a lesser degree, wascommunicated to Elinor. He promised to call again in the course ofthree or four hours, and left both the patient and her anxiousattendant more composed than he had found them.

  With strong concern, and with many reproaches for not being called totheir aid, did Mrs. Jennings hear in the morning of what had passed.Her former apprehensions, now with greater reason restored, left herno doubt of the event; and though trying to speak comfort to Elinor,her conviction of her sister's danger would not allow her to offer thecomfort of hope. Her heart was really grieved. The rapid decay, theearly death of a girl so young, so lovely as Marianne, must havestruck a less interested person with concern. On Mrs. Jennings'scompassion she had other claims. She had been for three months hercompanion, was still under her care, and she was known to have beengreatly injured, and long unhappy. The distress of her sister too,particularly a favourite, was before her;--and as for their mother,when Mrs. Jennings considered that Marianne might probably be to _her_what Charlotte was to herself, her sympathy in _her_ sufferings wasvery sincere.

  Mr. Harris was punctual in his second visit; but he came to bedisappointed in his hopes of what the last would produce. Hismedicines had failed; the fever was unabated; and Marianne only morequiet--not more herself--remained in a heavy stupor. Elinor, catchingall, and more than all, his fears in a moment, proposed to call infurther advice. But he judged it unnecessary: he had still somethingmore to try, some more fresh application, of whose success he was asconfident as the last, and his visit concluded with encouragingassurances which reached the ear, but could not enter the heart ofMiss Dashwood. She was calm, except when she thought of her mother;but she was almost hopeless; and in this state she continued tillnoon, scarcely stirring from her sister's bed, her thoughts wanderingfrom one image of grief, one suffering friend to another, and herspirits oppressed to the utmost by the conversation of Mrs. Jennings,who scrupled not to attribute the severity and danger of this attackto the many weeks of previous indisposition which Marianne'sdisappointment had brought on. Elinor felt all the reasonableness ofthe idea, and it gave fresh misery to her reflections.

  About noon, however, she began--but with a caution--a dread ofdisappointment which for some time kept her silent, even to herfriend--to fancy, to hope she could perceive a slight amendment in hersister's pulse; she waited, watched, and examined it again and again;and at last, with an agitation more difficult to bury under exteriorcalmness, than all her foregoing distress, ventured to communicate herhopes. Mrs. Jennings, though forced, on examination, to acknowledge atemporary revival, tried to keep her young friend from indulging athought of its continuance; and Elinor, conning over every injunctionof distrust, told herself likewise not to hope. But it was too late.Hope had already entered; and feeling all its anxious flutter, shebent over her sister to watch--she hardly knew for what. Half an hourpassed away, and the favourable symptom yet blessed her. Others evenarose to confirm it. Her breath, her skin, her lips, all flatteredElinor with signs of amendment; and Marianne fixed her eyes on herwith a rational, though languid, gaze. Anxiety and hope now oppressedher in equal degrees, and left her no moment of tranquillity till thearrival of Mr. Harris at four o'clock; when his assurances, hisfelicitations on a recovery in her sister even surpassing hisexpectation, gave her confidence, comfort, and tears of joy.

  Marianne was in every respect materially better, and he declared herentirely out of danger. Mrs. Jennings, perhaps satisfied with thepartial justification of her forebodings which had been found in theirlate alarm, allowed herself to trust in his judgment, and admitted,with unfeigned joy, and soon with unequivocal cheerfulness, theprobability of an entire recovery.

  Elinor could not be cheerful. Her joy was of a different kind, and ledto any thing rather than to gaiety. Marianne restored to life, health,friends, and to her doting mother, was an idea to fill her heart withsensations of exquisite comfort, and expand it in ferventgratitude;--but it lead to no outward demonstrations of joy, no words,no smiles. All within Elinor's breast was satisfaction, silent andstrong.

  She continued by the side of her sister, with little intermission thewhole afternoon, calming every fear, satisfying every inquiry of herenfeebled spirits, supplying every succour, and watching almost everylook and every breath. The possibility of a relapse would of course,in some moments, occur to remind her of what anxiety was; but when shesaw, on her frequent and minute examination, that every symptom ofrecovery continued, and saw Marianne at six o'clock sink into a quiet,steady, and to all appearance comfortable, sleep, she silenced everydoubt.

  The time was now drawing on, when Colonel Brandon might be expectedback. At ten o'clock, she trusted, or at least not much later hermother would be relieved from the dreadful suspense in which she mustnow be travelling towards them. The Colonel, too!--perhaps scarcelyless an object of pity! Oh! how slow was the progress of time whichyet kept them in ignorance!

  At seven o'clock, leaving Marianne still sweetly asleep, she joinedMrs. Jennings in the drawing-room to tea. Of breakfast she had beenkept by her fears, and of dinner by their sudden reverse, from eatingmuch; and the present refreshment, therefore, with such feelings ofcontent as she brought to it, was particularly welcome. Mrs. Jenningswould have persuaded her, at its conclusion, to take some rest beforeher mother's arrival, and allow _her_ to take her place by Marianne;but E
linor had no sense of fatigue, no capability of sleep at thatmoment about her, and she was not to be kept away from her sister anunnecessary instant. Mrs. Jennings therefore attending her up stairsinto the sick chamber, to satisfy herself that all continued right,left her there again to her charge and her thoughts, and retired toher own room to write letters and sleep.

  The night was cold and stormy. The wind roared round the house, andthe rain beat against the windows; but Elinor, all happiness within,regarded it not. Marianne slept through every blast; and thetravellers, they had a rich reward in store, for every presentinconvenience.

  The clock struck eight. Had it been ten, Elinor would have beenconvinced that at that moment she heard a carriage driving up to thehouse; and so strong was the persuasion that she _did_, in spite ofthe _almost_ impossibility of their being already come, that she movedinto the adjoining dressing-closet and opened a window shutter, to besatisfied of the truth. She instantly saw that her ears had notdeceived her. The flaring lamps of a carriage were immediately inview. By their uncertain light she thought she could discern it to bedrawn by four horses; and this, while it told the excess of her poormother's alarm, gave some explanation to such unexpected rapidity.

  Never in her life had Elinor found it so difficult to be calm, as atthat moment. The knowledge of what her mother must be feeling as thecarriage stopped the door,--of her doubt--her dread,--perhaps herdespair!--and of what _she_ had to tell! with such knowledge it wasimpossible to be calm. All that remained to be done was to be speedy;and, therefore staying only till she could leave Mrs. Jennings's maidwith her sister, she hurried down stairs.

  The bustle in the vestibule, as she passed along an inner lobby,assured her that they were already in the house. She rushed to thedrawing-room,--she entered it,--and saw only Willoughby.

  _Opened a window-shutter._]

 
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