Sense and sensibility, p.48
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.48

           Jane Austen


  Marianne's illness, though weakening in its kind, had not been longenough to make her recovery slow; and with youth, natural strength,and her mother's presence in aid, it proceeded so smoothly as toenable her to remove, within four days after the arrival of thelatter, into Mrs. Palmer's dressing-room. When there, at her ownparticular request, for she was impatient to pour forth her thanks tohim for fetching her mother, Colonel Brandon was invited to visit her.

  His emotion on entering the room, in seeing her altered looks, and inreceiving the pale hand which she immediately held out to him, wassuch, as, in Elinor's conjecture, must arise from something more thanhis affection for Marianne, or the consciousness of its being known toothers; and she soon discovered in his melancholy eye and varyingcomplexion as he looked at her sister, the probable recurrence of manypast scenes of misery to his mind, brought back by that resemblancebetween Marianne and Eliza already acknowledged, and now strengthenedby the hollow eye, the sickly skin, the posture of reclining weakness,and the warm acknowledgment of peculiar obligation.

  Mrs. Dashwood, not less watchful of what passed than her daughter, butwith a mind very differently influenced, and therefore watching tovery different effect, saw nothing in the Colonel's behaviour but whatarose from the most simple and self-evident sensations, while in theactions and words of Marianne she persuaded herself to think thatsomething more than gratitude already dawned.

  At the end of another day or two, Marianne growing visibly strongerevery twelve hours, Mrs. Dashwood, urged equally by her own and herdaughter's wishes, began to talk of removing to Barton. On _her_measures depended those of her two friends; Mrs. Jennings could notquit Cleveland during the Dashwoods' stay; and Colonel Brandon wassoon brought, by their united request, to consider his own abode thereas equally determinate, if not equally indispensable. At his and Mrs.Jennings's united request in return, Mrs. Dashwood was prevailed on toaccept the use of his carriage on her journey back, for the betteraccommodation of her sick child; and the Colonel, at the jointinvitation of Mrs. Dashwood and Mrs. Jennings, whose activegood-nature made her friendly and hospitable for other people as wellas herself, engaged with pleasure to redeem it by a visit at thecottage, in the course of a few weeks.

  The day of separation and departure arrived; and Marianne, aftertaking so particular and lengthened a leave of Mrs. Jennings, one soearnestly grateful, so full of respect and kind wishes as seemed dueto her own heart from a secret acknowledgment of past inattention, andbidding Colonel Brandon farewell with a cordiality of a friend, wascarefully assisted by him into the carriage, of which he seemedanxious that she should engross at least half. Mrs. Dashwood andElinor then followed, and the others were left by themselves, to talkof the travellers, and feel their own dullness, till Mrs. Jenningswas summoned to her chaise to take comfort in the gossip of her maidfor the loss of her two young companions; and Colonel Brandonimmediately afterwards took his solitary way to Delaford.

  The Dashwoods were two days on the road, and Marianne bore her journeyon both, without essential fatigue. Every thing that the most zealousaffection, the most solicitous care could do to render hercomfortable, was the office of each watchful companion, and each foundtheir reward in her bodily ease, and her calmness of spirits. ToElinor, the observation of the latter was particularly grateful. She,who had seen her week after week so constantly suffering, oppressed byanguish of heart which she had neither courage to speak of, norfortitude to conceal, now saw with a joy, which no other could equallyshare, an apparent composure of mind, which, in being the result asshe trusted of serious reflection, must eventually lead her tocontentment and cheerfulness.

  As they approached Barton, indeed, and entered on scenes of whichevery field and every tree brought some peculiar, some painfulrecollection, she grew silent and thoughtful, and turning away herface from their notice, sat earnestly gazing through the window. Buthere, Elinor could neither wonder nor blame; and when she saw, as sheassisted Marianne from the carriage, that she had been crying, she sawonly an emotion too natural in itself to raise any thing less tenderthan pity, and in its unobtrusiveness entitled to praise. In the wholeof her subsequent manner, she traced the direction of a mind awakenedto reasonable exertion; for no sooner had they entered their commonsitting-room, than Marianne turned her eyes around it with a look ofresolute firmness, as if determined at once to accustom herself to thesight of every object with which the remembrance of Willoughby couldbe connected. She said little, but every sentence aimed atcheerfulness, and though a sigh sometimes escaped her, it never passedaway without the atonement of a smile. After dinner she would try herpiano-forte. She went to it; but the music on which her eye firstrested was an opera, procured for her by Willoughby, containing someof their favourite duets, and bearing on its outward leaf her own namein his hand-writing. That would not do. She shook her head, put themusic aside, and after running over the keys for a minute, complainedof feebleness in her fingers, and closed the instrument again;declaring however with firmness as she did so, that she should infuture practice much.

  The next morning produced no abatement in these happy symptoms. On thecontrary, with a mind and body alike strengthened by rest, she lookedand spoke with more genuine spirit, anticipating the pleasure ofMargaret's return, and talking of the dear family party which wouldthen be restored, of their mutual pursuits and cheerful society, asthe only happiness worth a wish.

  "When the weather is settled, and I have recovered my strength," saidshe, "we will take long walks together every day. We will walk to thefarm at the edge of the down, and see how the children go on; we willwalk to Sir John's new plantations at Barton Cross, and the Abbeyland;and we will often go the old ruins of the Priory, and try to trace itsfoundations as far as we are told they once reached. I know we shallbe happy. I know the summer will pass happily away. I mean never to belater in rising than six, and from that time till dinner I shalldivide every moment between music and reading. I have formed my plan,and am determined to enter on a course of serious study. Our ownlibrary is too well known to me, to be resorted to for any thingbeyond mere amusement. But there are many works well worth reading atthe Park; and there are others of more modern production which I knowI can borrow of Colonel Brandon. By reading only six hours a-day, Ishall gain in the course of a twelvemonth a great deal of instructionwhich I now feel myself to want."

  Elinor honoured her for a plan which originated so nobly as this;though smiling to see the same eager fancy which had been leading herto the extreme of languid indolence and selfish repining, now at workin introducing excess into a scheme of such rational employment andvirtuous self-control. Her smile however changed to a sigh when sheremembered that promise to Willoughby was yet unfulfilled, and fearedshe had that to communicate which might again unsettle the mind ofMarianne, and ruin at least for a time this fair prospect of busytranquillity. Willing therefore to delay the evil hour, she resolvedto wait till her sister's health were more secure, before sheappointed it. But the resolution was made only to be broken.

  "_And see how the children go on._"]

  Marianne had been two or three days at home, before the weather wasfine enough for an invalid like herself to venture out. But at last asoft, genial morning appeared; such as might tempt the daughter'swishes and the mother's confidence; and Marianne, leaning on Elinor'sarm, was authorised to walk as long as she could without fatigue, inthe lane before the house.

  The sisters set out at a pace, slow as the feebleness of Marianne inan exercise hitherto untried since her illness required;--and they hadadvanced only so far beyond the house as to admit a full view of thehill, the important hill behind, when pausing with her eyes turnedtowards it, Marianne calmly said--

  "There, exactly there,"--pointing with one hand, "on that projectingmound,--there I fell; and there I first saw Willoughby."

  Her voice sunk with the word, but presently reviving she added,

  "I am thankful to find that I can look with so little pain on thespot! shall we ever
talk on that subject, Elinor?" hesitatingly it wassaid. "Or will it be wrong? I can talk of it now, I hope, as I oughtto do."

  Elinor tenderly invited her to be open.

  "As for regret," said Marianne, "I have done with that, as far as _he_is concerned. I do not mean to talk to you of what my feelings havebeen for him, but what they are _now._ At present, if I could besatisfied on one point, if I could be allowed to think that he was not_always_ acting a part, not _always_ deceiving me; but above all, if Icould be assured that he never was so _very_ wicked as my fears havesometimes fancied him, since the story of that unfortunate girl--"

  She stopped. Elinor joyfully treasured her words as she answered--

  "If you could be assured of that, you think you should be easy."

  "Yes. My peace of mind is doubly involved in it; for not only is ithorrible to suspect a person, who has been what _he_ has been to _me_,of such designs, but what must it make me appear to myself? What in asituation like mine, but a most shamefully unguarded affection couldexpose me to--"

  "How then," asked her sister, "would you account for his behaviour?"

  "I would suppose him--Oh, how gladly would I suppose him!--onlyfickle, very, very fickle."

  Elinor said no more. She was debating within herself on theeligibility of beginning her story directly, or postponing it tillMarianne were in stronger health; and they crept on for a few minutesin silence.

  "I am not wishing him too much good," said Marianne at last with asigh, "when I wish his secret reflections may be no more unpleasantthan my own. He will suffer enough in them."

  "Do you compare your conduct with his?"

  "No. I compare it with what it ought to have been; I compare it withyours."

  "Our situations have borne little resemblance."

  "They have borne more than our conduct. Do not, my dearest Elinor, letyour kindness defend what I know your judgment must censure. My illnesshas made me think. It has given me leisure and calmness for seriousrecollection. Long before I was enough recovered to talk, I wasperfectly able to reflect. I considered the past: I saw in my ownbehaviour, since the beginning of our acquaintance with him last autumn,nothing but a series of imprudence towards myself, and want of kindnessto others. I saw that my own feelings had prepared my sufferings, andthat my want of fortitude under them had almost led me to the grave. Myillness, I well knew, had been entirely brought on by myself by suchnegligence of my own health, as I had felt even at the time to be wrong.Had I died, it would have been self-destruction. I did not know mydanger till the danger was removed; but with such feelings as thesereflections gave me, I wonder at my recovery,--wonder that the veryeagerness of my desire to live, to have time for atonement to my God,and to you all, did not kill me at once. Had I died, in what peculiarmisery should I have left you, my nurse, my friend, my sister! You, whohad seen all the fretful selfishness of my latter days; who had knownall the murmurings of my heart! How should I have lived in _your_remembrance! My mother too! How could you have consoled her! I cannotexpress my own abhorrence of myself. Whenever I looked towards the past,I saw some duty neglected, or some failing indulged. Every body seemedinjured by me. The kindness, the unceasing kindness of Mrs. Jennings, Ihad repaid with ungrateful contempt. To the Middletons, to the Palmers,the Steeles, to every common acquaintance even, I had been insolent andunjust; with a heart hardened against their merits, and a temperirritated by their very attention. To John, to Fanny, yes, even to them,little as they deserve, I had given less than their due. But you, youabove all, above my mother, had been wronged by me. I, and only I, knewyour heart and its sorrows; yet to what did it influence me?--not to anycompassion that could benefit you or myself. Your example was before me;but to what avail? Was I more considerate of you and your comfort? Did Iimitate your forbearance, or lessen your restraints, by taking any partin those offices of general complaisance or particular gratitude whichyou had hitherto been left to discharge alone? No; not less when I knewyou to be unhappy, than when I had believed you at ease, did I turn awayfrom every exertion of duty or friendship; scarcely allowing sorrow toexist but with me, regretting only _that_ heart which had deserted andwronged me, and leaving you, for I professed an unbounded affection, tobe miserable for my sake."

  Here ceased the rapid flow of her self-reproving spirit; and Elinor,impatient to soothe, though too honest to flatter, gave her instantlythat praise and support which her frankness and her contrition so welldeserved. Marianne pressed her hand and replied--

  "You are very good. The future must be my proof. I have laid down myplan, and if I am capable of adhering to it--my feelings shall begoverned and my temper improved. They shall no longer worry others,nor torture myself. I shall now live solely for my family. You, mymother, and Margaret, must henceforth be all the world to me; you willshare my affections entirely between you. From you, from my home, Ishall never again have the smallest incitement to move; and if I domix in other society, it will be only to show that my spirit ishumbled, my heart amended, and that I can practise the civilities, thelesser duties of life, with gentleness and forbearance. As forWilloughby--to say that I shall soon or that I shall ever forget him,would be idle. His remembrance can be overcome by no change ofcircumstances or opinions. But it shall be regulated, it shall bechecked by religion, by reason, by constant employment."

  She paused--and added in a low voice, "If I could but know _his_heart, everything would become easy."

  Elinor, who had now been for some time reflecting on the propriety orimpropriety of speedily hazarding her narration, without feeling atall nearer decision than at first, heard this; and perceiving that asreflection did nothing, resolution must do all, soon found herselfleading to the fact.

  She managed the recital, as she hoped, with address; prepared heranxious listener with caution; related simply and honestly the chiefpoints on which Willoughby grounded his apology; did justice to hisrepentance, and softened only his protestations of present regard.Marianne said not a word. She trembled, her eyes were fixed on theground, and her lips became whiter than even sickness had left them. Athousand inquiries sprung up from her heart, but she dared not urgeone. She caught every syllable with panting eagerness; her hand,unknowingly to herself, closely pressed her sister's, and tearscovered her cheeks.

  Elinor, dreading her being tired, led her towards home; and till theyreached the door of the cottage, easily conjecturing what hercuriosity must be though no question was suffered to speak it, talkedof nothing but Willoughby, and their conversation together; and wascarefully minute in every particular of speech and look, whereminuteness could be safely indulged. As soon as they entered thehouse, Marianne with a kiss of gratitude and these two words justarticulate through her tears, "Tell mama," withdrew from her sisterand walked slowly up stairs. Elinor would not attempt to disturb asolitude so reasonable as what she now sought; and with a mindanxiously pre-arranging its result, and a resolution of reviving thesubject again, should Marianne fail to do it, she turned into theparlour to fulfill her parting injunction.

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