Sense and sensibility, p.6
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       Sense and Sensibility, p.6

          

  CHAPTER IV

  "What a pity it is, Elinor," said Marianne, "that Edward should haveno taste for drawing."

  "No taste for drawing!" replied Elinor, "why should you think so? Hedoes not draw himself, indeed, but he has great pleasure in seeing theperformances of other people, and I assure you he is by no meansdeficient in natural taste, though he has not had opportunities ofimproving it. Had he ever been in the way of learning, I think hewould have drawn very well. He distrusts his own judgment in suchmatters so much, that he is always unwilling to give his opinion onany picture; but he has an innate propriety and simplicity of taste,which in general direct him perfectly right."

  Marianne was afraid of offending, and said no more on the subject; butthe kind of approbation which Elinor described as excited in him bythe drawings of other people, was very far from that rapturousdelight, which, in her opinion, could alone be called taste. Yet,though smiling within herself at the mistake, she honoured her sisterfor that blind partiality to Edward which produced it.

  "I hope, Marianne," continued Elinor, "you do not consider him asdeficient in general taste. Indeed, I think I may say that you cannot,for your behaviour to him is perfectly cordial, and if _that_ wereyour opinion, I am sure you could never be civil to him."

  Marianne hardly knew what to say. She would not wound the feelings ofher sister on any account, and yet to say what she did not believe wasimpossible. At length she replied:

  "Do not be offended, Elinor, if my praise of him is not in every thingequal to your sense of his merits. I have not had so manyopportunities of estimating the minuter propensities of his mind, hisinclinations and tastes, as you have; but I have the highest opinionin the world of his goodness and sense. I think him every thing thatis worthy and amiable."

  "I am sure," replied Elinor, with a smile, "that his dearest friendscould not be dissatisfied with such commendation as that. I do notperceive how you could express yourself more warmly."

  Marianne was rejoiced to find her sister so easily pleased.

  "Of his sense and his goodness," continued Elinor, "no one can, Ithink, be in doubt, who has seen him often enough to engage him inunreserved conversation. The excellence of his understanding and hisprinciples can be concealed only by that shyness which too often keepshim silent. You know enough of him to do justice to his solid worth.But of his minuter propensities, as you call them you have frompeculiar circumstances been kept more ignorant than myself. He and Ihave been at times thrown a good deal together, while you have beenwholly engrossed on the most affectionate principle by my mother. Ihave seen a great deal of him, have studied his sentiments and heardhis opinion on subjects of literature and taste; and, upon the whole,I venture to pronounce that his mind is well-informed, enjoyment ofbooks exceedingly great, his imagination lively, his observation justand correct, and his taste delicate and pure. His abilities in everyrespect improve as much upon acquaintance as his manners and person.At first sight, his address is certainly not striking; and his personcan hardly be called handsome, till the expression of his eyes, whichare uncommonly good, and the general sweetness of his countenance, isperceived. At present, I know him so well, that I think him reallyhandsome; or at least, almost so. What say you, Marianne?"

  "I shall very soon think him handsome, Elinor, if I do not now. Whenyou tell me to love him as a brother, I shall no more see imperfectionin his face, than I now do in his heart."

  Elinor started at this declaration, and was sorry for the warmth shehad been betrayed into, in speaking of him. She felt that Edward stoodvery high in her opinion. She believed the regard to be mutual; butshe required greater certainty of it to make Marianne's conviction oftheir attachment agreeable to her. She knew that what Marianne and hermother conjectured one moment, they believed the next--that with them,to wish was to hope, and to hope was to expect. She tried to explainthe real state of the case to her sister.

  "I do not attempt to deny," said she, "that I think very highly ofhim--that I greatly esteem, that I like him."

  Marianne here burst forth with indignation--

  "Esteem him! Like him! Cold-hearted Elinor! Oh! worse thancold-hearted! Ashamed of being otherwise. Use those words again, and Iwill leave the room this moment."

  Elinor could not help laughing. "Excuse me," said she; "and be assuredthat I meant no offence to you, by speaking, in so quiet a way, of myown feelings. Believe them to be stronger than I have declared;believe them, in short, to be such as his merit, and thesuspicion--the hope--of his affection for me may warrant, withoutimprudence or folly. But farther than this you must not believe. I amby no means assured of his regard for me. There are moments when theextent of it seems doubtful; and till his sentiments are fully known,you cannot wonder at my wishing to avoid any encouragement of my ownpartiality, by believing or calling it more than it is. In my heart Ifeel little--scarcely any doubt of his preference. But there are otherpoints to be considered besides his inclination. He is very far frombeing independent. What his mother really is we cannot know; but, fromFanny's occasional mention of her conduct and opinions, we have neverbeen disposed to think her amiable; and I am very much mistaken ifEdward is not himself aware that there would be many difficulties inhis way, if he were to wish to marry a woman who had not either agreat fortune or high rank."

  Marianne was astonished to find how much the imagination of her motherand herself had outstripped the truth.

  "And you really are not engaged to him!" said she. "Yet it certainlysoon will happen. But two advantages will proceed from this delay. Ishall not lose you so soon, and Edward will have greater opportunityof improving that natural taste for your favourite pursuit which mustbe so indispensably necessary to your future felicity. Oh! if heshould be so far stimulated by your genius as to learn to drawhimself, how delightful it would be!"

  Elinor had given her real opinion to her sister. She could notconsider her partiality for Edward in so prosperous a state asMarianne had believed it. There was, at times, a want of spirits abouthim which, if it did not denote indifference, spoke of somethingalmost as unpromising. A doubt of her regard, supposing him to feelit, need not give him more than inquietude. It would not be likely toproduce that dejection of mind which frequently attended him. A morereasonable cause might be found in the dependent situation whichforbade the indulgence of his affection. She knew that his motherneither behaved to him so as to make his home comfortable at present,nor to give him any assurance that he might form a home for himself,without strictly attending to her views for his aggrandizement. Withsuch a knowledge as this, it was impossible for Elinor to feel easy onthe subject. She was far from depending on that result of hispreference of her, which her mother and sister still considered ascertain. Nay, the longer they were together the more doubtful seemedthe nature of his regard; and sometimes, for a few painful minutes,she believed it to be no more than friendship.

  But, whatever might really be its limits, it was enough, whenperceived by his sister, to make her uneasy, and at the same time,(which was still more common,) to make her uncivil. She took the firstopportunity of affronting her mother-in-law on the occasion, talkingto her so expressively of her brother's great expectations, of Mrs.Ferrars's resolution that both her sons should marry well, and of thedanger attending any young woman who attempted to _draw him in_, thatMrs. Dashwood could neither pretend to be unconscious, nor endeavor tobe calm. She gave her an answer which marked her contempt, andinstantly left the room, resolving that, whatever might be theinconvenience or expense of so sudden a removal, her beloved Elinorshould not be exposed another week to such insinuations.

  In this state of her spirits, a letter was delivered to her from thepost, which contained a proposal particularly well timed. It was theoffer of a small house, on very easy terms, belonging to a relation ofher own, a gentleman of consequence and property in Devonshire. Theletter was from this gentleman himself, and written in the true spiritof friendly accommodation. He understood that she was in need of adwelling; and though the house he now offered her was merely acottage, he assured her that everything should be done to it which shemight think necessary, if the situation pleased her. He earnestlypressed her, after giving the particulars of the house and garden, tocome with her daughters to Barton Park, the place of his ownresidence, from whence she might judge, herself, whether BartonCottage, for the houses were in the same parish, could, by anyalteration, be made comfortable to her. He seemed really anxious toaccommodate them and the whole of his letter was written in sofriendly a style as could not fail of giving pleasure to his cousin;more especially at a moment when she was suffering under the cold andunfeeling behaviour of her nearer connections. She needed no time fordeliberation or inquiry. Her resolution was formed as she read. Thesituation of Barton, in a county so far distant from Sussex asDevonshire, which, but a few hours before, would have been asufficient objection to outweigh every possible advantage belonging tothe place, was now its first recommendation. To quit the neighbourhoodof Norland was no longer an evil; it was an object of desire; it was ablessing, in comparison of the misery of continuing herdaughter-in-law's guest; and to remove for ever from that belovedplace would be less painful than to inhabit or visit it while such awoman was its mistress. She instantly wrote Sir John Middleton heracknowledgment of his kindness, and her acceptance of his proposal;and then hastened to show both letters to her daughters, that shemight be secure of their approbation before her answer were sent.

  Elinor had always thought it would be more prudent for them to settleat some distance from Norland, than immediately amongst their presentacquaintance. On _that_ head, therefore, it was not for her to opposeher mother's intention of removing into Devonshire. The house, too, asdescribed by Sir John, was on so simple a scale, and the rent souncommonly moderate, as to leave her no right of objection on eitherpoint; and, therefore, though it was not a plan which brought anycharm to her fancy, though it was a removal from the vicinity ofNorland beyond her wishes, she made no attempt to dissuade her motherfrom sending a letter of acquiescence.

 
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