Sense and sensibility, p.47
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.47

          

  CHAPTER XLV

  Elinor, for some time after he left her, for some time even after thesound of his carriage had died away, remained too much oppressed by acrowd of ideas, widely differing in themselves, but of which sadnesswas the general result, to think even of her sister.

  Willoughby, he, whom only half an hour ago she had abhorred as themost worthless of men, Willoughby, in spite of all his faults, exciteda degree of commiseration for the sufferings produced by them, whichmade her think of him as now separated for ever from her family, witha tenderness, a regret, rather in proportion, as she soon acknowledgedwithin herself--to his wishes than to his merits. She felt that hisinfluence over her mind was heightened by circumstances which oughtnot in reason to have weight; by that person of uncommon attraction,that open, affectionate, and lively manner which it was no merit topossess; and by that still ardent love for Marianne, which it was noteven innocent to indulge. But she felt that it was so, long, longbefore she could feel his influence less.

  When at last she returned to the unconscious Marianne, she found herjust awaking, refreshed by so long and sweet a sleep to the extent ofher hopes. Elinor's heart was full. The past, the present, the future,Willoughby's visit, Marianne's safety, and her mother's expectedarrival, threw her altogether into an agitation of spirits which keptoff every indication of fatigue, and made her only fearful ofbetraying herself to her sister. Short was the time, however, in whichthat fear could affect her, for within half an hour after Willoughby'sleaving the house, she was again called down stairs by the sound ofanother carriage. Eager to save her mother from every unnecessarymoment's horrible suspense, she ran immediately into the hall, andreached the outward door just in time to receive and support her asshe entered it.

  Mrs. Dashwood, whose terror as they drew near the house had producedalmost the conviction of Marianne's being no more, had no voice toinquire after her, no voice even for Elinor; but _she_, waitingneither for salutation nor inquiry, instantly gave the joyful relief;and her mother, catching it with all her usual warmth, was in a momentas much overcome by her happiness, as she had been before by herfears. She was supported into the drawing-room between her daughterand her friend; and there, shedding tears of joy, though still unableto speak, embraced Elinor again and again, turning from her atintervals to press Colonel Brandon's hand, with a look which spoke atonce her gratitude, and her conviction of his sharing with herself inthe bliss of the moment. He shared it, however, in a silence evengreater than her own.

  As soon as Mrs. Dashwood had recovered herself, to see Marianne washer first desire; and in two minutes she was with her beloved child,rendered dearer to her than ever by absence, unhappiness, and danger.Elinor's delight, as she saw what each felt in the meeting, was onlychecked by an apprehension of its robbing Marianne of farthersleep;--but Mrs. Dashwood could be calm, could be even prudent, whenthe life of a child was at stake, and Marianne, satisfied in knowingher mother was near her, and conscious of being too weak forconversation, submitted readily to the silence and quiet prescribed byevery nurse around her. Mrs. Dashwood _would_ sit up with her allnight; and Elinor, in compliance with her mother's entreaty, went tobed. But the rest, which one night entirely sleepless, and many hoursof the most wearing anxiety seemed to make requisite, was kept off byirritation of spirits. Willoughby, "poor Willoughby," as she nowallowed herself to call him, was constantly in her thoughts; she wouldnot but have heard his vindication for the world, and now blamed, nowacquitted herself for having judged him so harshly before. But herpromise of relating it to her sister was invariably painful. Shedreaded the performance of it, dreaded what its effect on Mariannemight be; doubted whether after such an explanation she could ever behappy with another; and for a moment wished Willoughby a widower.Then, remembering Colonel Brandon, reproved herself, felt that to_his_ sufferings and _his_ constancy far more than to his rival's, thereward of her sister was due, and wished any thing rather than Mrs.Willoughby's death.

  The shock of Colonel Brandon's errand at Barton had been much softenedto Mrs. Dashwood by her own previous alarm; for so great was heruneasiness about Marianne, that she had already determined to set outfor Cleveland on that very day, without waiting for any furtherintelligence, and had so far settled her journey before his arrival,that the Careys were then expected every moment to fetch Margaretaway, as her mother was unwilling to take her where there might beinfection.

  Marianne continued to mend every day, and the brilliant cheerfulnessof Mrs. Dashwood's looks and spirits proved her to be, as sherepeatedly declared herself, one of the happiest women in the world.Elinor could not hear the declaration, nor witness its proofs withoutsometimes wondering whether her mother ever recollected Edward. ButMrs. Dashwood, trusting to the temperate account of her owndisappointment which Elinor had sent her, was led away by theexuberance of her joy to think only of what would increase it.Marianne was restored to her from a danger in which, as she now beganto feel, her own mistaken judgment in encouraging the unfortunateattachment to Willoughby, had contributed to place her; and in herrecovery she had yet another source of joy unthought of by Elinor. Itwas thus imparted to her, as soon as any opportunity of privateconference between them occurred.

  "At last we are alone. My Elinor, you do not yet know all myhappiness. Colonel Brandon loves Marianne. He has told me so himself."

  Her daughter, feeling by turns both pleased and pained, surprised andnot surprised, was all silent attention.

  "You are never like me, dear Elinor, or I should wonder at yourcomposure now. Had I sat down to wish for any possible good to myfamily, I should have fixed on Colonel Brandon's marrying one of youas the object most desirable. And I believe Marianne will be the mosthappy with him of the two."

  Elinor was half inclined to ask her reason for thinking so, becausesatisfied that none founded on an impartial consideration of theirage, characters, or feelings, could be given;--but her mother mustalways be carried away by her imagination on any interesting subject,and therefore instead of an inquiry, she passed it off with a smile.

  "He opened his whole heart to me yesterday as we travelled. It cameout quite unawares, quite undesignedly. I, you may well believe, couldtalk of nothing but my child;--he could not conceal his distress; Isaw that it equalled my own, and he perhaps, thinking that merefriendship, as the world now goes, would not justify so warm asympathy--or rather, not thinking at all, I suppose--giving way toirresistible feelings, made me acquainted with his earnest, tender,constant, affection for Marianne. He has loved her, my Elinor, eversince the first moment of seeing her."

  Here, however, Elinor perceived,--not the language, not theprofessions of Colonel Brandon, but the natural embellishments of hermother's active fancy, which fashioned every thing delightful to heras it chose.

  "His regard for her, infinitely surpassing anything that Willoughbyever felt or feigned, as much more warm, as more sincere or constant,which ever we are to call it, has subsisted through all the knowledgeof dear Marianne's unhappy prepossession for that worthless young man!and without selfishness, without encouraging a hope! could he haveseen her happy with another. Such a noble mind! such openness, suchsincerity! No one can be deceived in _him._"

  "Colonel Brandon's character," said Elinor, "as an excellent man, iswell established."

  "I know it is," replied her mother seriously, "or after such awarning, I should be the last to encourage such affection, or even tobe pleased by it. But his coming for me as he did, with such active,such ready friendship, is enough to prove him one of the worthiest ofmen."

  "His character, however," answered Elinor, "does not rest on _one_ actof kindness, to which his affection for Marianne, were humanity out ofthe case, would have prompted him. To Mrs. Jennings, to theMiddletons, he has been long and intimately known; they equally loveand respect him; and even my own knowledge of him, though latelyacquired, is very considerable; and so highly do I value and esteemhim, that if Marianne can be happy with him, I shall be as ready asyourself to think our connection the greatest blessing to us in theworld. What answer did you give him? Did you allow him to hope?"

  "Oh! my love, I could not then talk of hope to him or to myself.Marianne might at that moment be dying. But he did not ask for hope orencouragement. His was an involuntary confidence, an irrepressibleeffusion to a soothing friend, not an application to a parent. Yetafter a time I _did_ say, for at first I was quite overcome, that ifshe lived, as I trusted she might, my greatest happiness would lie inpromoting their marriage; and since our arrival, since our delightfulsecurity, I have repeated it to him more fully, have given him everyencouragement in my power. Time, a very little time, I tell him, willdo everything; Marianne's heart is not to be wasted for ever on such aman as Willoughby. His own merits must soon secure it."

  "To judge from the Colonel's spirits, however, you have not yet madehim equally sanguine."

  "No. He thinks Marianne's affection too deeply rooted for any changein it under a great length of time, and even supposing her heart againfree, is too diffident of himself to believe, that with such adifference of age and disposition he could ever attach her. There,however, he is quite mistaken. His age is only so much beyond hers asto be an advantage, as to make his character and principlesfixed;--and his disposition, I am well convinced, is exactly the veryone to make your sister happy. And his person, his manners too, areall in his favour. My partiality does not blind me; he certainly isnot so handsome as Willoughby--but at the same time, there issomething much more pleasing in his countenance. There was always asomething,--if you remember,--in Willoughby's eyes at times, which Idid not like."

  Elinor could _not_ remember it;--but her mother, without waiting forher assent, continued--

  "And his manners, the Colonel's manners are not only more pleasing tome than Willoughby's ever were, but they are of a kind I well know tobe more solidly attaching to Marianne. Their gentleness, theirgenuine attention to other people, and their manly unstudiedsimplicity is much more accordant with her real disposition, than theliveliness--often artificial, and often ill-timed of the other. I amvery sure myself, that had Willoughby turned out as really amiable, ashe has proved himself the contrary, Marianne would yet never have beenso happy with _him_ as she will be with Colonel Brandon."

  She paused. Her daughter could not quite agree with her, but herdissent was not heard, and therefore gave no offence.

  "At Delaford, she will be within an easy distance of me," added Mrs.Dashwood, "even if I remain at Barton; and in all probability,--for Ihear it is a large village,--indeed there certainly _must_ be somesmall house or cottage close by, that would suit us quite as well asour present situation."

  Poor Elinor!--here was a new scheme for getting her to Delaford!--buther spirit was stubborn.

  "His fortune too!--for at my time of life you know, everybody caresabout _that_;--and though I neither know nor desire to know, what itreally is, I am sure it must be a good one."

  Here they were interrupted by the entrance of a third person, andElinor withdrew to think it all over in private, to wish success toher friend, and yet in wishing it, to feel a pang for Willoughby.

 
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