Sense and sensibility, p.50
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.50
 

           Jane Austen

  CHAPTER XLVIII

  Elinor now found the difference between the expectation of anunpleasant event, however certain the mind may be told to consider it,and certainty itself. She now found, that in spite of herself, she hadalways admitted a hope, while Edward remained single, that somethingwould occur to prevent his marrying Lucy; that some resolution of hisown, some mediation of friends, or some more eligible opportunity ofestablishment for the lady, would arise to assist the happiness ofall. But he was now married; and she condemned her heart for thelurking flattery, which so much heightened the pain of theintelligence.

  That he should be married soon, before (as she imagined) he could bein orders, and consequently before he could be in possession of theliving, surprised her a little at first. But she soon saw how likelyit was that Lucy, in her self-provident care, in her haste to securehim, should overlook every thing but the risk of delay. They weremarried, married in town, and now hastening down to her uncle's. Whathad Edward felt on being within four miles from Barton, on seeing hermother's servant, on hearing Lucy's message!

  They would soon, she supposed, be settled atDelaford;--Delaford,--that place in which so much conspired to giveher an interest; which she wished to be acquainted with, and yetdesired to avoid. She saw them in an instant in their parsonage-house;saw in Lucy, the active, contriving manager, uniting at once a desireof smart appearance with the utmost frugality, and ashamed to besuspected of half her economical practices; pursuing her own interestin every thought, courting the favour of Colonel Brandon, of Mrs.Jennings, and of every wealthy friend. In Edward, she knew not whatshe saw, nor what she wished to see. Happy or unhappy, nothing pleasedher; she turned away her head from every sketch of him.

  Elinor flattered herself that some one of their connections in Londonwould write to them to announce the event, and give fartherparticulars,--but day after day passed off, and brought no letter, notidings. Though uncertain that any one were to blame, she found faultwith every absent friend. They were all thoughtless or indolent.

  "When do you write to Colonel Brandon, ma'am?" was an inquiry whichsprung from the impatience of her mind to have something going on.

  "I wrote to him, my love, last week, and rather expect to see, than tohear from him again. I earnestly pressed his coming to us, and shouldnot be surprised to see him walk in today or tomorrow, or any day."

  This was gaining something, something to look forward to. ColonelBrandon must have some information to give.

  Scarcely had she so determined it, when the figure of a man onhorseback drew her eyes to the window. He stopped at their gate. Itwas a gentleman, it was Colonel Brandon himself. Now she could hearmore; and she trembled in expectation of it. But--it was _not_ ColonelBrandon--neither his air--nor his height. Were it possible, she mustsay it must be Edward. She looked again. He had just dismounted;--shecould not be mistaken,--it _was_ Edward. She moved away and sat down."He comes from Mr. Pratt's purposely to see us. I _will_ be calm, I_will_ be mistress of myself."

  In a moment she perceived that the others were likewise aware of themistake. She saw her mother and Marianne change colour; saw them lookat herself, and whisper a few sentences to each other. She would havegiven the world to be able to speak--and to make them understand thatshe hoped no coolness, no slight, would appear in their behaviour tohim;--but she had no utterance, and was obliged to leave all to theirown discretion.

  Not a syllable passed aloud. They all waited in silence for theappearance of their visitor. His footsteps were heard along the gravelpath; in a moment he was in the passage, and in another he was beforethem.

  His countenance, as he entered the room, was not too happy, even forElinor. His complexion was white with agitation, and he looked as iffearful of his reception, and conscious that he merited no kind one.Mrs. Dashwood, however, conforming, as she trusted, to the wishes ofthat daughter, by whom she then meant in the warmth of her heart to beguided in every thing, met with a look of forced complacency, gave himher hand, and wished him joy.

  _It was Edward._]

  He coloured, and stammered out an unintelligible reply. Elinor's lipshad moved with her mother's, and, when the moment of action was over,she wished that she had shaken hands with him too. But it was then toolate, and with a countenance meaning to be open, she sat down againand talked of the weather.

  Marianne had retreated as much as possible out of sight, to concealher distress; and Margaret, understanding some part, but not the wholeof the case, thought it incumbent on her to be dignified, andtherefore took a seat as far from him as she could, and maintained astrict silence.

  When Elinor had ceased to rejoice in the dryness of the season, a veryawful pause took place. It was put an end to by Mrs. Dashwood, whofelt obliged to hope that he had left Mrs. Ferrars very well. In ahurried manner, he replied in the affirmative.

  Another pause.

  Elinor resolving to exert herself, though fearing the sound of her ownvoice, now said--

  "Is Mrs. Ferrars at Longstaple?"

  "At Longstaple!" he replied, with an air of surprise. "No, my motheris in town."

  "I meant," said Elinor, taking up some work from the table, "toinquire for Mrs. _Edward_ Ferrars."

  She dared not look up;--but her mother and Marianne both turned theireyes on him. He coloured, seemed perplexed, looked doubtingly, and,after some hesitation, said,--

  "Perhaps you mean--my brother--you mean Mrs.--Mrs. _Robert_ Ferrars."

  "Mrs. Robert Ferrars!"--was repeated by Marianne and her mother in anaccent of the utmost amazement;--and though Elinor could not speak,even _her_ eyes were fixed on him with the same impatient wonder. Herose from his seat, and walked to the window, apparently from notknowing what to do; took up a pair of scissors that lay there, andwhile spoiling both them and their sheath by cutting the latter topieces as he spoke, said, in a hurried voice--

  "Perhaps you do not know--you may not have heard that my brother islately married to--to the youngest--to Miss Lucy Steele."

  His words were echoed with unspeakable astonishment by all butElinor, who sat with her head leaning over her work, in a state ofsuch agitation as made her hardly know where she was.

  "Yes," said he, "they were married last week, and are now at Dawlish."

  Elinor could sit it no longer. She almost ran out of the room, and assoon as the door was closed, burst into tears of joy, which at firstshe thought would never cease. Edward, who had till then looked anywhere, rather than at her, saw her hurry away, and perhaps saw, oreven heard, her emotion; for immediately afterwards he fell into areverie, which no remarks, no inquiries, no affectionate address ofMrs. Dashwood could penetrate, and at last, without saying a word,quitted the room, and walked out towards the village, leaving theothers in the greatest astonishment and perplexity on a change in hissituation, so wonderful and so sudden,--a perplexity which they had nomeans of lessening but by their own conjectures.

 
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