Part 3 out of 8
were spared much solicitude on her account.
Such behaviour as this, so exactly the reverse
of her own, appeared no more meritorious to Marianne,
than her own had seemed faulty to her. The business
of self-command she settled very easily;--with strong
affections it was impossible, with calm ones it could
have no merit. That her sister's affections WERE calm,
she dared not deny, though she blushed to acknowledge it;
and of the strength of her own, she gave a very striking proof,
by still loving and respecting that sister, in spite
of this mortifying conviction.
Without shutting herself up from her family,
or leaving the house in determined solitude to avoid them,
or lying awake the whole night to indulge meditation,
Elinor found every day afforded her leisure enough
to think of Edward, and of Edward's behaviour, in every
possible variety which the different state of her spirits
at different times could produce,--with tenderness,
pity, approbation, censure, and doubt. There were moments
in abundance, when, if not by the absence of her mother
and sisters, at least by the nature of their employments,
conversation was forbidden among them, and every effect
of solitude was produced. Her mind was inevitably
at liberty; her thoughts could not be chained elsewhere;
and the past and the future, on a subject so interesting,
must be before her, must force her attention, and engross
her memory, her reflection, and her fancy.
From a reverie of this kind, as she sat at her
drawing-table, she was roused one morning, soon after
Edward's leaving them, by the arrival of company.
She happened to be quite alone. The closing of the
little gate, at the entrance of the green court in front
of the house, drew her eyes to the window, and she saw
a large party walking up to the door. Amongst them
were Sir John and Lady Middleton and Mrs. Jennings,
but there were two others, a gentleman and lady, who were
quite unknown to her. She was sitting near the window,
and as soon as Sir John perceived her, he left the rest
of the party to the ceremony of knocking at the door,
and stepping across the turf, obliged her to open the
casement to speak to him, though the space was so short
between the door and the window, as to make it hardly
possible to speak at one without being heard at the other.
"Well," said he, "we have brought you some strangers.
How do you like them?"
"Hush! they will hear you."
"Never mind if they do. It is only the Palmers.
Charlotte is very pretty, I can tell you. You may see her
if you look this way."
As Elinor was certain of seeing her in a couple
of minutes, without taking that liberty, she begged
to be excused.
"Where is Marianne? Has she run away because we
are come? I see her instrument is open."
"She is walking, I believe."
They were now joined by Mrs. Jennings, who had not
patience enough to wait till the door was opened before
she told HER story. She came hallooing to the window,
"How do you do, my dear? How does Mrs. Dashwood do?
And where are your sisters? What! all alone! you
will be glad of a little company to sit with you.
I have brought my other son and daughter to see you.
Only think of their coming so suddenly! I thought I heard
a carriage last night, while we were drinking our tea,
but it never entered my head that it could be them.
I thought of nothing but whether it might not be Colonel
Brandon come back again; so I said to Sir John, I do think
I hear a carriage; perhaps it is Colonel Brandon come
Elinor was obliged to turn from her, in the middle
of her story, to receive the rest of the party; Lady
Middleton introduced the two strangers; Mrs. Dashwood
and Margaret came down stairs at the same time, and they
all sat down to look at one another, while Mrs. Jennings
continued her story as she walked through the passage
into the parlour, attended by Sir John.
Mrs. Palmer was several years younger than Lady
Middleton, and totally unlike her in every respect.
She was short and plump, had a very pretty face,
and the finest expression of good humour in it that could
possibly be. Her manners were by no means so elegant
as her sister's, but they were much more prepossessing.
She came in with a smile, smiled all the time of her visit,
except when she laughed, and smiled when she went away.
Her husband was a grave looking young man of five or six
and twenty, with an air of more fashion and sense than
his wife, but of less willingness to please or be pleased.
He entered the room with a look of self-consequence,
slightly bowed to the ladies, without speaking a word,
and, after briefly surveying them and their apartments,
took up a newspaper from the table, and continued to read it
as long as he staid.
Mrs. Palmer, on the contrary, who was strongly endowed
by nature with a turn for being uniformly civil and happy,
was hardly seated before her admiration of the parlour
and every thing in it burst forth.
"Well! what a delightful room this is! I never
saw anything so charming! Only think, Mamma, how it
is improved since I was here last! I always thought it
such a sweet place, ma'am! (turning to Mrs. Dashwood)
but you have made it so charming! Only look, sister,
how delightful every thing is! How I should like such
a house for myself! Should not you, Mr. Palmer?"
Mr. Palmer made her no answer, and did not even raise
his eyes from the newspaper.
"Mr. Palmer does not hear me," said she, laughing;
"he never does sometimes. It is so ridiculous!"
This was quite a new idea to Mrs. Dashwood; she had
never been used to find wit in the inattention of any one,
and could not help looking with surprise at them both.
Mrs. Jennings, in the meantime, talked on as loud
as she could, and continued her account of their surprise,
the evening before, on seeing their friends, without
ceasing till every thing was told. Mrs. Palmer laughed
heartily at the recollection of their astonishment,
and every body agreed, two or three times over, that it
had been quite an agreeable surprise.
"You may believe how glad we all were to see them,"
added Mrs. Jennings, leaning forward towards Elinor,
and speaking in a low voice as if she meant to be heard
by no one else, though they were seated on different sides
of the room; "but, however, I can't help wishing they had
not travelled quite so fast, nor made such a long journey
of it, for they came all round by London upon account
of some business, for you know (nodding significantly and
pointing to her daughter) it was wrong in her situation.
I wanted her to stay at home and rest this morning,
but she would come with us; she longed so much to see
Mrs. Palmer laughed, and said it would not do her
"She expects to be confined in February,"
continued Mrs. Jennings.
Lady Middleton could no longer endure such a conversation,
and therefore exerted herself to ask Mr. Palmer if there
was any news in the paper.
"No, none at all," he replied, and read on.
"Here comes Marianne," cried Sir John. "Now, Palmer,
you shall see a monstrous pretty girl."
He immediately went into the passage, opened the front door,
and ushered her in himself. Mrs. Jennings asked her,
as soon as she appeared, if she had not been to Allenham;
and Mrs. Palmer laughed so heartily at the question,
as to show she understood it. Mr. Palmer looked up
on her entering the room, stared at her some minutes,
and then returned to his newspaper. Mrs. Palmer's eye
was now caught by the drawings which hung round the room.
She got up to examine them.
"Oh! dear, how beautiful these are! Well! how delightful!
Do but look, mama, how sweet! I declare they are quite charming;
I could look at them for ever." And then sitting down again,
she very soon forgot that there were any such things in the room.
When Lady Middleton rose to go away, Mr. Palmer
rose also, laid down the newspaper, stretched himself
and looked at them all around.
"My love, have you been asleep?" said his wife, laughing.
He made her no answer; and only observed, after again
examining the room, that it was very low pitched,
and that the ceiling was crooked. He then made his bow,
and departed with the rest.
Sir John had been very urgent with them all to
spend the next day at the park. Mrs. Dashwood, who did
not chuse to dine with them oftener than they dined
at the cottage, absolutely refused on her own account;
her daughters might do as they pleased. But they had no
curiosity to see how Mr. and Mrs. Palmer ate their dinner,
and no expectation of pleasure from them in any other way.
They attempted, therefore, likewise, to excuse themselves;
the weather was uncertain, and not likely to be good.
But Sir John would not be satisfied--the carriage should
be sent for them and they must come. Lady Middleton too,
though she did not press their mother, pressed them.
Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Palmer joined their entreaties, all
seemed equally anxious to avoid a family party; and the young
ladies were obliged to yield.
"Why should they ask us?" said Marianne, as soon as they
were gone. "The rent of this cottage is said to be low;
but we have it on very hard terms, if we are to dine
at the park whenever any one is staying either with them,
or with us."
"They mean no less to be civil and kind to us now,"
said Elinor, "by these frequent invitations, than by
those which we received from them a few weeks ago.
The alteration is not in them, if their parties are grown
tedious and dull. We must look for the change elsewhere."
As the Miss Dashwoods entered the drawing-room of the park
the next day, at one door, Mrs. Palmer came running in at
the other, looking as good humoured and merry as before.
She took them all most affectionately by the hand,
and expressed great delight in seeing them again.
"I am so glad to see you!" said she, seating herself
between Elinor and Marianne, "for it is so bad a day I was
afraid you might not come, which would be a shocking thing,
as we go away again tomorrow. We must go, for the Westons
come to us next week you know. It was quite a sudden thing
our coming at all, and I knew nothing of it till the carriage
was coming to the door, and then Mr. Palmer asked me if I
would go with him to Barton. He is so droll! He never
tells me any thing! I am so sorry we cannot stay longer;
however we shall meet again in town very soon, I hope."
They were obliged to put an end to such an expectation.
"Not go to town!" cried Mrs. Palmer, with a laugh,
"I shall be quite disappointed if you do not. I could
get the nicest house in world for you, next door to ours,
in Hanover-square. You must come, indeed. I am sure
I shall be very happy to chaperon you at any time till
I am confined, if Mrs. Dashwood should not like to go
They thanked her; but were obliged to resist all
"Oh, my love," cried Mrs. Palmer to her husband,
who just then entered the room--"you must help me to
persuade the Miss Dashwoods to go to town this winter."
Her love made no answer; and after slightly bowing
to the ladies, began complaining of the weather.
"How horrid all this is!" said he. "Such weather
makes every thing and every body disgusting. Dullness
is as much produced within doors as without, by rain.
It makes one detest all one's acquaintance. What the
devil does Sir John mean by not having a billiard room
in his house? How few people know what comfort is! Sir
John is as stupid as the weather."
The rest of the company soon dropt in.
"I am afraid, Miss Marianne," said Sir John, "you have
not been able to take your usual walk to Allenham today."
Marianne looked very grave and said nothing.
"Oh, don't be so sly before us," said Mrs. Palmer;
"for we know all about it, I assure you; and I admire your
taste very much, for I think he is extremely handsome.
We do not live a great way from him in the country, you know.
Not above ten miles, I dare say."
"Much nearer thirty," said her husband.
"Ah, well! there is not much difference.
I never was at his house; but they say it is a sweet
"As vile a spot as I ever saw in my life,"
said Mr. Palmer.
Marianne remained perfectly silent, though her
countenance betrayed her interest in what was said.
"Is it very ugly?" continued Mrs. Palmer--"then it
must be some other place that is so pretty I suppose."
When they were seated in the dining room, Sir John
observed with regret that they were only eight all together.
"My dear," said he to his lady, "it is very provoking
that we should be so few. Why did not you ask the Gilberts
to come to us today?"
"Did not I tell you, Sir John, when you spoke to me
about it before, that it could not be done? They dined
with us last."
"You and I, Sir John," said Mrs. Jennings,
"should not stand upon such ceremony."
"Then you would be very ill-bred," cried Mr. Palmer.
"My love you contradict every body," said his wife
with her usual laugh. "Do you know that you are quite rude?"
"I did not know I contradicted any body in calling
your mother ill-bred."
"Ay, you may abuse me as you please," said the good-natured
old lady, "you have taken Charlotte off my hands, and cannot
give her back again. So there I have the whip hand of you."
Charlotte laughed heartily to think that her
husband could not get rid of her; and exultingly said,
she did not care how cross he was to her, as they must
live together. It was impossible for any one to be more
thoroughly good-natured, or more determined to be happy
than Mrs. Palmer. The studied indifference, insolence,
and discontent of her husband gave her no pain;
and when he scolded or abused her, she was highly diverted.
"Mr. Palmer is so droll!" said she, in a whisper,
to Elinor. "He is always out of humour."
Elinor was not inclined, after a little observation,
to give him credit for being so genuinely and unaffectedly
ill-natured or ill-bred as he wished to appear.
His temper might perhaps be a little soured by finding,
like many others of his sex, that through some unaccountable
bias in favour of beauty, he was the husband of a very silly
woman,--but she knew that this kind of blunder was too
common for any sensible man to be lastingly hurt by it.--
It was rather a wish of distinction, she believed,
which produced his contemptuous treatment of every body,
and his general abuse of every thing before him.
It was the desire of appearing superior to other people.
The motive was too common to be wondered at; but the means,
however they might succeed by establishing his superiority
in ill-breeding, were not likely to attach any one to him
except his wife.
"Oh, my dear Miss Dashwood," said Mrs. Palmer soon afterwards,
"I have got such a favour to ask of you and your sister.
Will you come and spend some time at Cleveland this
Christmas? Now, pray do,--and come while the Westons are
with us. You cannot think how happy I shall be! It will
be quite delightful!--My love," applying to her husband,
"don't you long to have the Miss Dashwoods come to Cleveland?"
"Certainly," he replied, with a sneer--"I came
into Devonshire with no other view."
"There now,"--said his lady, "you see Mr. Palmer
expects you; so you cannot refuse to come."
They both eagerly and resolutely declined her invitation.
"But indeed you must and shall come. I am sure you
will like it of all things. The Westons will be with us,
and it will be quite delightful. You cannot think
what a sweet place Cleveland is; and we are so gay now,
for Mr. Palmer is always going about the country canvassing
against the election; and so many people came to dine
with us that I never saw before, it is quite charming! But,
poor fellow! it is very fatiguing to him! for he is forced
to make every body like him."
Elinor could hardly keep her countenance as she
assented to the hardship of such an obligation.
"How charming it will be," said Charlotte, "when he
is in Parliament!--won't it? How I shall laugh! It will
be so ridiculous to see all his letters directed to him
with an M.P.--But do you know, he says, he will never frank
for me? He declares he won't. Don't you, Mr. Palmer?"
Mr. Palmer took no notice of her.
"He cannot bear writing, you know," she continued--
"he says it is quite shocking."
"No," said he, "I never said any thing so irrational.
Don't palm all your abuses of languages upon me."
"There now; you see how droll he is. This is always
the way with him! Sometimes he won't speak to me for half
a day together, and then he comes out with something
so droll--all about any thing in the world."
She surprised Elinor very much as they returned
into the drawing-room, by asking her whether she did
not like Mr. Palmer excessively.
"Certainly," said Elinor; "he seems very agreeable."
"Well--I am so glad you do. I thought you would,
he is so pleasant; and Mr. Palmer is excessively pleased
with you and your sisters I can tell you, and you can't
think how disappointed he will be if you don't come
to Cleveland.--I can't imagine why you should object
Elinor was again obliged to decline her invitation;
and by changing the subject, put a stop to her entreaties.
She thought it probable that as they lived in the
same county, Mrs. Palmer might be able to give some
more particular account of Willoughby's general
character, than could be gathered from the Middletons'
partial acquaintance with him; and she was eager to gain
from any one, such a confirmation of his merits as might
remove the possibility of fear from Marianne. She began
by inquiring if they saw much of Mr. Willoughby at Cleveland,
and whether they were intimately acquainted with him.
"Oh dear, yes; I know him extremely well,"
replied Mrs. Palmer;--"Not that I ever spoke
to him, indeed; but I have seen him for ever in town.
Somehow or other I never happened to be staying at Barton
while he was at Allenham. Mama saw him here once before;--
but I was with my uncle at Weymouth. However, I dare say
we should have seen a great deal of him in Somersetshire,
if it had not happened very unluckily that we should never
have been in the country together. He is very little
at Combe, I believe; but if he were ever so much there,
I do not think Mr. Palmer would visit him, for he is
in the opposition, you know, and besides it is such a
way off. I know why you inquire about him, very well;
your sister is to marry him. I am monstrous glad of it,
for then I shall have her for a neighbour you know."
"Upon my word," replied Elinor, "you know much
more of the matter than I do, if you have any reason
to expect such a match."
"Don't pretend to deny it, because you know it is
what every body talks of. I assure you I heard of it
in my way through town."
"My dear Mrs. Palmer!"
"Upon my honour I did.--I met Colonel Brandon
Monday morning in Bond-street, just before we left town,
and he told me of it directly."
"You surprise me very much. Colonel Brandon tell
you of it! Surely you must be mistaken. To give such
intelligence to a person who could not be interested in it,
even if it were true, is not what I should expect Colonel
Brandon to do."
"But I do assure you it was so, for all that,
and I will tell you how it happened. When we met him,
he turned back and walked with us; and so we began talking
of my brother and sister, and one thing and another,
and I said to him, 'So, Colonel, there is a new family
come to Barton cottage, I hear, and mama sends me word
they are very pretty, and that one of them is going to be
married to Mr. Willoughby of Combe Magna. Is it true,
pray? for of course you must know, as you have been in
Devonshire so lately.'"
"And what did the Colonel say?"
"Oh--he did not say much; but he looked as if he
knew it to be true, so from that moment I set it down
as certain. It will be quite delightful, I declare!
When is it to take place?"
"Mr. Brandon was very well I hope?"
"Oh! yes, quite well; and so full of your praises,
he did nothing but say fine things of you."
"I am flattered by his commendation. He seems
an excellent man; and I think him uncommonly pleasing."
"So do I.--He is such a charming man, that it
is quite a pity he should be so grave and so dull.
Mamma says HE was in love with your sister too.--
I assure you it was a great compliment if he was, for he
hardly ever falls in love with any body."
"Is Mr. Willoughby much known in your part
of Somersetshire?" said Elinor.
"Oh! yes, extremely well; that is, I do not believe
many people are acquainted with him, because Combe Magna
is so far off; but they all think him extremely agreeable
I assure you. Nobody is more liked than Mr. Willoughby
wherever he goes, and so you may tell your sister.
She is a monstrous lucky girl to get him, upon my honour;
not but that he is much more lucky in getting her,
because she is so very handsome and agreeable, that nothing
can be good enough for her. However, I don't think
her hardly at all handsomer than you, I assure you;
for I think you both excessively pretty, and so does
Mr. Palmer too I am sure, though we could not get him
to own it last night."
Mrs. Palmer's information respecting Willoughby
was not very material; but any testimony in his favour,
however small, was pleasing to her.
"I am so glad we are got acquainted at last,"
continued Charlotte.--"And now I hope we shall always be
great friends. You can't think how much I longed to see you!
It is so delightful that you should live at the cottage!
Nothing can be like it, to be sure! And I am so glad
your sister is going to be well married! I hope you will
be a great deal at Combe Magna. It is a sweet place,
by all accounts."
"You have been long acquainted with Colonel Brandon,
have not you?"
"Yes, a great while; ever since my sister married.--
He was a particular friend of Sir John's. I believe,"
she added in a low voice, "he would have been very
glad to have had me, if he could. Sir John and Lady
Middleton wished it very much. But mama did not think
the match good enough for me, otherwise Sir John would
have mentioned it to the Colonel, and we should have been
"Did not Colonel Brandon know of Sir John's proposal
to your mother before it was made? Had he never owned
his affection to yourself?"
"Oh, no; but if mama had not objected to it,
I dare say he would have liked it of all things.
He had not seen me then above twice, for it was before
I left school. However, I am much happier as I am.
Mr. Palmer is the kind of man I like."
The Palmers returned to Cleveland the next day,
and the two families at Barton were again left to entertain
each other. But this did not last long; Elinor had hardly
got their last visitors out of her head, had hardly done
wondering at Charlotte's being so happy without a cause,
at Mr. Palmer's acting so simply, with good abilities,
and at the strange unsuitableness which often existed between
husband and wife, before Sir John's and Mrs. Jennings's
active zeal in the cause of society, procured her some
other new acquaintance to see and observe.
In a morning's excursion to Exeter, they had met with
two young ladies, whom Mrs. Jennings had the satisfaction
of discovering to be her relations, and this was enough
for Sir John to invite them directly to the park,
as soon as their present engagements at Exeter were over.
Their engagements at Exeter instantly gave way before
such an invitation, and Lady Middleton was thrown into
no little alarm on the return of Sir John, by hearing
that she was very soon to receive a visit from two girls
whom she had never seen in her life, and of whose elegance,--
whose tolerable gentility even, she could have no proof;
for the assurances of her husband and mother on that subject
went for nothing at all. Their being her relations too
made it so much the worse; and Mrs. Jennings's attempts
at consolation were therefore unfortunately founded,
when she advised her daughter not to care about their being
so fashionable; because they were all cousins and must put
up with one another. As it was impossible, however, now to
prevent their coming, Lady Middleton resigned herself to the
idea of it, with all the philosophy of a well-bred woman,
contenting herself with merely giving her husband a gentle
reprimand on the subject five or six times every day.
The young ladies arrived: their appearance was by
no means ungenteel or unfashionable. Their dress was
very smart, their manners very civil, they were delighted
with the house, and in raptures with the furniture,
and they happened to be so doatingly fond of children
that Lady Middleton's good opinion was engaged in their
favour before they had been an hour at the Park.
She declared them to be very agreeable girls indeed,
which for her ladyship was enthusiastic admiration.
Sir John's confidence in his own judgment rose with this
animated praise, and he set off directly for the cottage
to tell the Miss Dashwoods of the Miss Steeles' arrival,
and to assure them of their being the sweetest girls
in the world. From such commendation as this, however,
there was not much to be learned; Elinor well knew
that the sweetest girls in the world were to be met
with in every part of England, under every possible
variation of form, face, temper and understanding.
Sir John wanted the whole family to walk to the Park directly
and look at his guests. Benevolent, philanthropic man! It
was painful to him even to keep a third cousin to himself.
"Do come now," said he--"pray come--you must come--I
declare you shall come--You can't think how you will
like them. Lucy is monstrous pretty, and so good humoured
and agreeable! The children are all hanging about her already,
as if she was an old acquaintance. And they both long
to see you of all things, for they have heard at Exeter
that you are the most beautiful creatures in the world;
and I have told them it is all very true, and a great
deal more. You will be delighted with them I am sure.
They have brought the whole coach full of playthings
for the children. How can you be so cross as not to come?
Why they are your cousins, you know, after a fashion.
YOU are my cousins, and they are my wife's, so you must
But Sir John could not prevail. He could only obtain
a promise of their calling at the Park within a day or two,
and then left them in amazement at their indifference,
to walk home and boast anew of their attractions to the
Miss Steeles, as he had been already boasting of the Miss
Steeles to them.
When their promised visit to the Park and consequent
introduction to these young ladies took place, they found
in the appearance of the eldest, who was nearly thirty,
with a very plain and not a sensible face, nothing to admire;
but in the other, who was not more than two or three
and twenty, they acknowledged considerable beauty; her
features were pretty, and she had a sharp quick eye,
and a smartness of air, which though it did not give
actual elegance or grace, gave distinction to her person.--
Their manners were particularly civil, and Elinor soon
allowed them credit for some kind of sense, when she
saw with what constant and judicious attention they
were making themselves agreeable to Lady Middleton.
With her children they were in continual raptures,
extolling their beauty, courting their notice, and humouring
their whims; and such of their time as could be spared from
the importunate demands which this politeness made on it,
was spent in admiration of whatever her ladyship was doing,
if she happened to be doing any thing, or in taking patterns
of some elegant new dress, in which her appearance
the day before had thrown them into unceasing delight.
Fortunately for those who pay their court through
such foibles, a fond mother, though, in pursuit of praise
for her children, the most rapacious of human beings,
is likewise the most credulous; her demands are exorbitant;
but she will swallow any thing; and the excessive
affection and endurance of the Miss Steeles towards
her offspring were viewed therefore by Lady Middleton
without the smallest surprise or distrust. She saw with
maternal complacency all the impertinent encroachments
and mischievous tricks to which her cousins submitted.
She saw their sashes untied, their hair pulled about
their ears, their work-bags searched, and their knives
and scissors stolen away, and felt no doubt of its being
a reciprocal enjoyment. It suggested no other surprise
than that Elinor and Marianne should sit so composedly by,
without claiming a share in what was passing.
"John is in such spirits today!" said she, on his
taking Miss Steeles's pocket handkerchief, and throwing
it out of window--"He is full of monkey tricks."
And soon afterwards, on the second boy's violently
pinching one of the same lady's fingers, she fondly observed,
"How playful William is!"
"And here is my sweet little Annamaria," she added,
tenderly caressing a little girl of three years old,
who had not made a noise for the last two minutes;
"And she is always so gentle and quiet--Never was there
such a quiet little thing!"
But unfortunately in bestowing these embraces,
a pin in her ladyship's head dress slightly scratching
the child's neck, produced from this pattern of gentleness
such violent screams, as could hardly be outdone by any
creature professedly noisy. The mother's consternation
was excessive; but it could not surpass the alarm of the
Miss Steeles, and every thing was done by all three,
in so critical an emergency, which affection could suggest
as likely to assuage the agonies of the little sufferer.
She was seated in her mother's lap, covered with kisses,
her wound bathed with lavender-water, by one of the
Miss Steeles, who was on her knees to attend her,
and her mouth stuffed with sugar plums by the other.
With such a reward for her tears, the child was too wise
to cease crying. She still screamed and sobbed lustily,
kicked her two brothers for offering to touch her, and all
their united soothings were ineffectual till Lady Middleton
luckily remembering that in a scene of similar distress
last week, some apricot marmalade had been successfully
applied for a bruised temple, the same remedy was eagerly
proposed for this unfortunate scratch, and a slight
intermission of screams in the young lady on hearing it,
gave them reason to hope that it would not be rejected.--
She was carried out of the room therefore in her
mother's arms, in quest of this medicine, and as the
two boys chose to follow, though earnestly entreated
by their mother to stay behind, the four young ladies
were left in a quietness which the room had not known for
"Poor little creatures!" said Miss Steele, as soon
as they were gone. "It might have been a very sad accident."
"Yet I hardly know how," cried Marianne, "unless it
had been under totally different circumstances.
But this is the usual way of heightening alarm, where there
is nothing to be alarmed at in reality."
"What a sweet woman Lady Middleton is!" said Lucy Steele.
Marianne was silent; it was impossible for her to say
what she did not feel, however trivial the occasion;
and upon Elinor therefore the whole task of telling lies
when politeness required it, always fell. She did her
best when thus called on, by speaking of Lady Middleton
with more warmth than she felt, though with far less than
"And Sir John too," cried the elder sister,
"what a charming man he is!"
Here too, Miss Dashwood's commendation, being only
simple and just, came in without any eclat. She merely
observed that he was perfectly good humoured and friendly.
"And what a charming little family they have! I
never saw such fine children in my life.--I declare I
quite doat upon them already, and indeed I am always
distractedly fond of children."
"I should guess so," said Elinor, with a smile,
"from what I have witnessed this morning."
"I have a notion," said Lucy, "you think the little
Middletons rather too much indulged; perhaps they may be the
outside of enough; but it is so natural in Lady Middleton;
and for my part, I love to see children full of life
and spirits; I cannot bear them if they are tame and quiet."
"I confess," replied Elinor, "that while I am at
Barton Park, I never think of tame and quiet children
with any abhorrence."
A short pause succeeded this speech, which was first
broken by Miss Steele, who seemed very much disposed
for conversation, and who now said rather abruptly,
"And how do you like Devonshire, Miss Dashwood? I suppose
you were very sorry to leave Sussex."
In some surprise at the familiarity of this question,
or at least of the manner in which it was spoken,
Elinor replied that she was.
"Norland is a prodigious beautiful place, is not it?"
added Miss Steele.
"We have heard Sir John admire it excessively,"
said Lucy, who seemed to think some apology necessary
for the freedom of her sister.
"I think every one MUST admire it," replied Elinor,
"who ever saw the place; though it is not to be supposed
that any one can estimate its beauties as we do."
"And had you a great many smart beaux there? I
suppose you have not so many in this part of the world;
for my part, I think they are a vast addition always."
"But why should you think," said Lucy, looking ashamed
of her sister, "that there are not as many genteel young
men in Devonshire as Sussex?"
"Nay, my dear, I'm sure I don't pretend to say that there
an't. I'm sure there's a vast many smart beaux in Exeter;
but you know, how could I tell what smart beaux there
might be about Norland; and I was only afraid the Miss
Dashwoods might find it dull at Barton, if they had not
so many as they used to have. But perhaps you young ladies
may not care about the beaux, and had as lief be without
them as with them. For my part, I think they are vastly
agreeable, provided they dress smart and behave civil.
But I can't bear to see them dirty and nasty. Now there's
Mr. Rose at Exeter, a prodigious smart young man,
quite a beau, clerk to Mr. Simpson, you know, and yet if you
do but meet him of a morning, he is not fit to be seen.--
I suppose your brother was quite a beau, Miss Dashwood,
before he married, as he was so rich?"
"Upon my word," replied Elinor, "I cannot tell you,
for I do not perfectly comprehend the meaning of the word.
But this I can say, that if he ever was a beau before
he married, he is one still for there is not the smallest
alteration in him."
"Oh! dear! one never thinks of married men's being
beaux--they have something else to do."
"Lord! Anne," cried her sister, "you can talk of
nothing but beaux;--you will make Miss Dashwood believe you
think of nothing else." And then to turn the discourse,
she began admiring the house and the furniture.
This specimen of the Miss Steeles was enough.
The vulgar freedom and folly of the eldest left
her no recommendation, and as Elinor was not blinded
by the beauty, or the shrewd look of the youngest,
to her want of real elegance and artlessness, she left
the house without any wish of knowing them better.
Not so the Miss Steeles.--They came from Exeter, well
provided with admiration for the use of Sir John Middleton,
his family, and all his relations, and no niggardly
proportion was now dealt out to his fair cousins, whom they
declared to be the most beautiful, elegant, accomplished,
and agreeable girls they had ever beheld, and with whom
they were particularly anxious to be better acquainted.--
And to be better acquainted therefore, Elinor soon found
was their inevitable lot, for as Sir John was entirely
on the side of the Miss Steeles, their party would be
too strong for opposition, and that kind of intimacy
must be submitted to, which consists of sitting an hour
or two together in the same room almost every day.
Sir John could do no more; but he did not know that any
more was required: to be together was, in his opinion,
to be intimate, and while his continual schemes for their
meeting were effectual, he had not a doubt of their being
To do him justice, he did every thing in his power
to promote their unreserve, by making the Miss Steeles
acquainted with whatever he knew or supposed of his cousins'
situations in the most delicate particulars,--and Elinor
had not seen them more than twice, before the eldest of
them wished her joy on her sister's having been so lucky
as to make a conquest of a very smart beau since she
came to Barton.
"'Twill be a fine thing to have her married so young
to be sure," said she, "and I hear he is quite a beau,
and prodigious handsome. And I hope you may have as good
luck yourself soon,--but perhaps you may have a friend
in the corner already."
Elinor could not suppose that Sir John would be more
nice in proclaiming his suspicions of her regard for Edward,
than he had been with respect to Marianne; indeed it was
rather his favourite joke of the two, as being somewhat
newer and more conjectural; and since Edward's visit,
they had never dined together without his drinking to her
best affections with so much significancy and so many nods
and winks, as to excite general attention. The letter F--
had been likewise invariably brought forward, and found
productive of such countless jokes, that its character
as the wittiest letter in the alphabet had been long
established with Elinor.
The Miss Steeles, as she expected, had now all the
benefit of these jokes, and in the eldest of them they
raised a curiosity to know the name of the gentleman
alluded to, which, though often impertinently expressed,
was perfectly of a piece with her general inquisitiveness
into the concerns of their family. But Sir John did not
sport long with the curiosity which he delighted to raise,
for he had at least as much pleasure in telling the name,
as Miss Steele had in hearing it.
"His name is Ferrars," said he, in a very audible whisper;
"but pray do not tell it, for it's a great secret."
"Ferrars!" repeated Miss Steele; "Mr. Ferrars is
the happy man, is he? What! your sister-in-law's brother,
Miss Dashwood? a very agreeable young man to be sure;
I know him very well."
"How can you say so, Anne?" cried Lucy, who generally
made an amendment to all her sister's assertions.
"Though we have seen him once or twice at my uncle's, it
is rather too much to pretend to know him very well."
Elinor heard all this with attention and surprise.
"And who was this uncle? Where did he live? How came
they acquainted?" She wished very much to have the subject
continued, though she did not chuse to join in it herself;
but nothing more of it was said, and for the first time
in her life, she thought Mrs. Jennings deficient either
in curiosity after petty information, or in a disposition
to communicate it. The manner in which Miss Steele had
spoken of Edward, increased her curiosity; for it struck
her as being rather ill-natured, and suggested the suspicion
of that lady's knowing, or fancying herself to know something
to his disadvantage.--But her curiosity was unavailing,
for no farther notice was taken of Mr. Ferrars's name by
Miss Steele when alluded to, or even openly mentioned by Sir
Marianne, who had never much toleration for any
thing like impertinence, vulgarity, inferiority of parts,
or even difference of taste from herself, was at
this time particularly ill-disposed, from the state
of her spirits, to be pleased with the Miss Steeles,
or to encourage their advances; and to the invariable
coldness of her behaviour towards them, which checked every
endeavour at intimacy on their side, Elinor principally
attributed that preference of herself which soon became
evident in the manners of both, but especially of Lucy,
who missed no opportunity of engaging her in conversation,
or of striving to improve their acquaintance by an easy
and frank communication of her sentiments.
Lucy was naturally clever; her remarks were often
just and amusing; and as a companion for half an hour
Elinor frequently found her agreeable; but her powers
had received no aid from education: she was ignorant
and illiterate; and her deficiency of all mental improvement,
her want of information in the most common particulars,
could not be concealed from Miss Dashwood, in spite of her
constant endeavour to appear to advantage. Elinor saw,
and pitied her for, the neglect of abilities which education
might have rendered so respectable; but she saw, with less
tenderness of feeling, the thorough want of delicacy,
of rectitude, and integrity of mind, which her attentions,
her assiduities, her flatteries at the Park betrayed;
and she could have no lasting satisfaction in the company
of a person who joined insincerity with ignorance;
whose want of instruction prevented their meeting
in conversation on terms of equality, and whose conduct
toward others made every shew of attention and deference
towards herself perfectly valueless.
"You will think my question an odd one, I dare say,"
said Lucy to her one day, as they were walking together
from the park to the cottage--"but pray, are you
personally acquainted with your sister-in-law's mother,
Elinor DID think the question a very odd one,
and her countenance expressed it, as she answered that she
had never seen Mrs. Ferrars.
"Indeed!" replied Lucy; "I wonder at that, for I
thought you must have seen her at Norland sometimes.
Then, perhaps, you cannot tell me what sort of a woman
"No," returned Elinor, cautious of giving her real
opinion of Edward's mother, and not very desirous
of satisfying what seemed impertinent curiosity--
"I know nothing of her."
"I am sure you think me very strange, for enquiring
about her in such a way," said Lucy, eyeing Elinor attentively
as she spoke; "but perhaps there may be reasons--I wish
I might venture; but however I hope you will do me the justice
of believing that I do not mean to be impertinent."
Elinor made her a civil reply, and they walked on
for a few minutes in silence. It was broken by Lucy,
who renewed the subject again by saying, with some
"I cannot bear to have you think me impertinently curious.
I am sure I would rather do any thing in the world than be
thought so by a person whose good opinion is so well worth
having as yours. And I am sure I should not have the smallest
fear of trusting YOU; indeed, I should be very glad of your
advice how to manage in such and uncomfortable situation
as I am; but, however, there is no occasion to trouble YOU.
I am sorry you do not happen to know Mrs. Ferrars."
"I am sorry I do NOT," said Elinor, in great astonishment,
"if it could be of any use to YOU to know my opinion of her.
But really I never understood that you were at all connected
with that family, and therefore I am a little surprised,
I confess, at so serious an inquiry into her character."
"I dare say you are, and I am sure I do not at all
wonder at it. But if I dared tell you all, you would not be
so much surprised. Mrs. Ferrars is certainly nothing to me
at present--but the time MAY come--how soon it will come
must depend upon herself--when we may be very intimately
She looked down as she said this, amiably bashful,
with only one side glance at her companion to observe its
effect on her.
"Good heavens!" cried Elinor, "what do you mean?
Are you acquainted with Mr. Robert Ferrars? Can you be?"
And she did not feel much delighted with the idea of such
"No," replied Lucy, "not to Mr. ROBERT Ferrars--I
never saw him in my life; but," fixing her eyes upon Elinor,
"to his eldest brother."
What felt Elinor at that moment? Astonishment,
that would have been as painful as it was strong, had not
an immediate disbelief of the assertion attended it.
She turned towards Lucy in silent amazement, unable to divine
the reason or object of such a declaration; and though
her complexion varied, she stood firm in incredulity,
and felt in no danger of an hysterical fit, or a swoon.
"You may well be surprised," continued Lucy;
"for to be sure you could have had no idea of it before;
for I dare say he never dropped the smallest hint of it
to you or any of your family; because it was always meant
to be a great secret, and I am sure has been faithfully
kept so by me to this hour. Not a soul of all my relations
know of it but Anne, and I never should have mentioned
it to you, if I had not felt the greatest dependence
in the world upon your secrecy; and I really thought my
behaviour in asking so many questions about Mrs. Ferrars
must seem so odd, that it ought to be explained.
And I do not think Mr. Ferrars can be displeased,
when he knows I have trusted you, because I know he has
the highest opinion in the world of all your family,
and looks upon yourself and the other Miss Dashwoods quite
as his own sisters."--She paused.
Elinor for a few moments remained silent.
Her astonishment at what she heard was at first too
great for words; but at length forcing herself to speak,
and to speak cautiously, she said, with calmness of manner,
which tolerably well concealed her surprise and solicitude--
"May I ask if your engagement is of long standing?"
"We have been engaged these four years."
Elinor, though greatly shocked, still felt unable
to believe it.
"I did not know," said she, "that you were even
acquainted till the other day."
"Our acquaintance, however, is of many years date.
He was under my uncle's care, you know, a considerable while."
"Yes; Mr. Pratt. Did you never hear him talk
of Mr. Pratt?"
"I think I have," replied Elinor, with an exertion
of spirits, which increased with her increase of emotion.
"He was four years with my uncle, who lives at Longstaple,
near Plymouth. It was there our acquaintance begun,
for my sister and me was often staying with my uncle,
and it was there our engagement was formed, though not till
a year after he had quitted as a pupil; but he was almost
always with us afterwards. I was very unwilling to enter
into it, as you may imagine, without the knowledge and
approbation of his mother; but I was too young, and loved
him too well, to be so prudent as I ought to have been.--
Though you do not know him so well as me, Miss Dashwood,
you must have seen enough of him to be sensible he is
very capable of making a woman sincerely attached to him."
"Certainly," answered Elinor, without knowing what
she said; but after a moment's reflection, she added,
with revived security of Edward's honour and love,
and her companion's falsehood--"Engaged to Mr. Edward
Ferrars!--I confess myself so totally surprised at
what you tell me, that really--I beg your pardon;
but surely there must be some mistake of person or name.
We cannot mean the same Mr. Ferrars."
"We can mean no other," cried Lucy, smiling. "Mr. Edward
Ferrars, the eldest son of Mrs. Ferrars, of Park Street,
and brother of your sister-in-law, Mrs. John Dashwood,
is the person I mean; you must allow that I am not likely
to be deceived as to the name of the man on who all my happiness
"It is strange," replied Elinor, in a most painful perplexity,
"that I should never have heard him even mention your name."
"No; considering our situation, it was not strange.
Our first care has been to keep the matter secret.--
You knew nothing of me, or my family, and, therefore,
there could be no OCCASION for ever mentioning my name
to you; and, as he was always particularly afraid of his
sister's suspecting any thing, THAT was reason enough
for his not mentioning it."
She was silent.--Elinor's security sunk; but her
self-command did not sink with it.
"Four years you have been engaged," said she
with a firm voice.
"Yes; and heaven knows how much longer we may have
to wait. Poor Edward! It puts him quite out of heart."
Then taking a small miniature from her pocket, she added,
"To prevent the possibility of mistake, be so good as to look
at this face. It does not do him justice, to be sure,
but yet I think you cannot be deceived as to the person
it was drew for.--I have had it above these three years."
She put it into her hands as she spoke; and when Elinor
saw the painting, whatever other doubts her fear of a
too hasty decision, or her wish of detecting falsehood
might suffer to linger in her mind, she could have none of
its being Edward's face. She returned it almost instantly,
acknowledging the likeness.
"I have never been able," continued Lucy, "to give
him my picture in return, which I am very much vexed at,
for he has been always so anxious to get it! But I am
determined to set for it the very first opportunity."
"You are quite in the right," replied Elinor calmly.
They then proceeded a few paces in silence. Lucy spoke first.
"I am sure," said she, "I have no doubt in the world
of your faithfully keeping this secret, because you must
know of what importance it is to us, not to have it reach
his mother; for she would never approve of it, I dare say.
I shall have no fortune, and I fancy she is an exceeding
"I certainly did not seek your confidence," said Elinor;
"but you do me no more than justice in imagining that I
may be depended on. Your secret is safe with me;
but pardon me if I express some surprise at so unnecessary
a communication. You must at least have felt that my
being acquainted with it could not add to its safety."
As she said this, she looked earnestly at Lucy,
hoping to discover something in her countenance; perhaps the
falsehood of the greatest part of what she had been saying;
but Lucy's countenance suffered no change.
"I was afraid you would think I was taking a great
liberty with you," said she, "in telling you all this.
I have not known you long to be sure, personally at least,
but I have known you and all your family by description
a great while; and as soon as I saw you, I felt almost as if
you was an old acquaintance. Besides in the present case,
I really thought some explanation was due to you after my
making such particular inquiries about Edward's mother;
and I am so unfortunate, that I have not a creature whose
advice I can ask. Anne is the only person that knows of it,
and she has no judgment at all; indeed, she does me a great
deal more harm than good, for I am in constant fear of her
betraying me. She does not know how to hold her tongue,
as you must perceive, and I am sure I was in the greatest
fright in the world t'other day, when Edward's name was
mentioned by Sir John, lest she should out with it all.
You can't think how much I go through in my mind from
it altogether. I only wonder that I am alive after what
I have suffered for Edward's sake these last four years.
Every thing in such suspense and uncertainty; and seeing
him so seldom--we can hardly meet above twice a-year.
I am sure I wonder my heart is not quite broke."
Here she took out her handkerchief; but Elinor did
not feel very compassionate.
"Sometimes." continued Lucy, after wiping her eyes,
"I think whether it would not be better for us both
to break off the matter entirely." As she said this,
she looked directly at her companion. "But then
at other times I have not resolution enough for it.--
I cannot bear the thoughts of making him so miserable,
as I know the very mention of such a thing would do.
And on my own account too--so dear as he is to me--I don't
think I could be equal to it. What would you advise
me to do in such a case, Miss Dashwood? What would you
"Pardon me," replied Elinor, startled by the question;
"but I can give you no advice under such circumstances.
Your own judgment must direct you."
"To be sure," continued Lucy, after a few minutes
silence on both sides, "his mother must provide for him
sometime or other; but poor Edward is so cast down by it!
Did you not think him dreadful low-spirited when he was at
Barton? He was so miserable when he left us at Longstaple,
to go to you, that I was afraid you would think him quite ill."
"Did he come from your uncle's, then, when he visited us?"
"Oh, yes; he had been staying a fortnight with us.
Did you think he came directly from town?"
"No," replied Elinor, most feelingly sensible of
every fresh circumstance in favour of Lucy's veracity;
"I remember he told us, that he had been staying
a fortnight with some friends near Plymouth."
She remembered too, her own surprise at the time,
at his mentioning nothing farther of those friends,
at his total silence with respect even to their names.
"Did not you think him sadly out of spirits?"
"We did, indeed, particularly so when he first arrived."
"I begged him to exert himself for fear you
should suspect what was the matter; but it made him
so melancholy, not being able to stay more than a
fortnight with us, and seeing me so much affected.--
Poor fellow!--I am afraid it is just the same with him now;
for he writes in wretched spirits. I heard from him just
before I left Exeter;" taking a letter from her pocket
and carelessly showing the direction to Elinor.
"You know his hand, I dare say, a charming one it is;
but that is not written so well as usual.--He was tired,
I dare say, for he had just filled the sheet to me as full
Elinor saw that it WAS his hand, and she could doubt
no longer. This picture, she had allowed herself to believe,
might have been accidentally obtained; it might not have
been Edward's gift; but a correspondence between them
by letter, could subsist only under a positive engagement,
could be authorised by nothing else; for a few moments, she
was almost overcome--her heart sunk within her, and she could
hardly stand; but exertion was indispensably necessary;
and she struggled so resolutely against the oppression
of her feelings, that her success was speedy, and for
the time complete.
"Writing to each other," said Lucy, returning the
letter into her pocket, "is the only comfort we have
in such long separations. Yes, I have one other comfort
in his picture, but poor Edward has not even THAT.
If he had but my picture, he says he should be easy.
I gave him a lock of my hair set in a ring when he was at
Longstaple last, and that was some comfort to him, he said,
but not equal to a picture. Perhaps you might notice
the ring when you saw him?"
"I did," said Elinor, with a composure of voice,
under which was concealed an emotion and distress beyond
any thing she had ever felt before. She was mortified,
Fortunately for her, they had now reached the cottage,
and the conversation could be continued no farther.
After sitting with them a few minutes, the Miss Steeles
returned to the Park, and Elinor was then at liberty
to think and be wretched.
[At this point in the first and second editions, Volume 1 ends.]
However small Elinor's general dependence on
Lucy's veracity might be, it was impossible for her
on serious reflection to suspect it in the present case,
where no temptation could be answerable to the folly
of inventing a falsehood of such a description. What Lucy
had asserted to be true, therefore, Elinor could not,
dared not longer doubt; supported as it was too on every
side by such probabilities and proofs, and contradicted
by nothing but her own wishes. Their opportunity of
acquaintance in the house of Mr. Pratt was a foundation
for the rest, at once indisputable and alarming; and Edward's
visit near Plymouth, his melancholy state of mind,
his dissatisfaction at his own prospects, his uncertain
behaviour towards herself, the intimate knowledge of the
Miss Steeles as to Norland and their family connections,
which had often surprised her, the picture, the letter,
the ring, formed altogether such a body of evidence,
as overcame every fear of condemning him unfairly,
and established as a fact, which no partiality could
set aside, his ill-treatment of herself.--Her resentment
of such behaviour, her indignation at having been its dupe,
for a short time made her feel only for herself;
but other ideas, other considerations, soon arose.
Had Edward been intentionally deceiving her? Had he feigned
a regard for her which he did not feel? Was his engagement
to Lucy an engagement of the heart? No; whatever it might
once have been, she could not believe it such at present.
His affection was all her own. She could not be deceived
in that. Her mother, sisters, Fanny, all had been
conscious of his regard for her at Norland; it was not
an illusion of her own vanity. He certainly loved her.
What a softener of the heart was this persuasion! How much
could it not tempt her to forgive! He had been blamable,
highly blamable, in remaining at Norland after he first
felt her influence over him to be more than it ought
to be. In that, he could not be defended; but if he
had injured her, how much more had he injured himself;
if her case were pitiable, his was hopeless.
His imprudence had made her miserable for a while; but it
seemed to have deprived himself of all chance of ever
being otherwise. She might in time regain tranquillity;
but HE, what had he to look forward to? Could he
ever be tolerably happy with Lucy Steele; could he,
were his affection for herself out of the question,
with his integrity, his delicacy, and well-informed mind,
be satisfied with a wife like her--illiterate, artful,
The youthful infatuation of nineteen would naturally
blind him to every thing but her beauty and good nature;
but the four succeeding years--years, which if rationally
spent, give such improvement to the understanding, must
have opened his eyes to her defects of education,
while the same period of time, spent on her side
in inferior society and more frivolous pursuits,
had perhaps robbed her of that simplicity which might
once have given an interesting character to her beauty.
If in the supposition of his seeking to marry herself,
his difficulties from his mother had seemed great,
how much greater were they now likely to be, when
the object of his engagement was undoubtedly inferior
in connections, and probably inferior in fortune to herself.
These difficulties, indeed, with a heart so alienated
from Lucy, might not press very hard upon his patience;
but melancholy was the state of the person by whom the
expectation of family opposition and unkindness, could
be felt as a relief!
As these considerations occurred to her in painful
succession, she wept for him, more than for herself.
Supported by the conviction of having done nothing to
merit her present unhappiness, and consoled by the belief
that Edward had done nothing to forfeit her esteem,
she thought she could even now, under the first smart
of the heavy blow, command herself enough to guard every
suspicion of the truth from her mother and sisters.
And so well was she able to answer her own expectations,
that when she joined them at dinner only two hours
after she had first suffered the extinction of all her
dearest hopes, no one would have supposed from the
appearance of the sisters, that Elinor was mourning
in secret over obstacles which must divide her for ever
from the object of her love, and that Marianne was
internally dwelling on the perfections of a man, of whose
whole heart she felt thoroughly possessed, and whom she
expected to see in every carriage which drove near their house.
The necessity of concealing from her mother and
Marianne, what had been entrusted in confidence to herself,
though it obliged her to unceasing exertion, was no
aggravation of Elinor's distress. On the contrary
it was a relief to her, to be spared the communication
of what would give such affliction to them, and to be
saved likewise from hearing that condemnation of Edward,
which would probably flow from the excess of their partial
affection for herself, and which was more than she felt
equal to support.
From their counsel, or their conversation, she knew
she could receive no assistance, their tenderness and
sorrow must add to her distress, while her self-command
would neither receive encouragement from their example
nor from their praise. She was stronger alone,
and her own good sense so well supported her, that her
firmness was as unshaken, her appearance of cheerfulness
as invariable, as with regrets so poignant and so fresh,
it was possible for them to be.
Much as she had suffered from her first conversation
with Lucy on the subject, she soon felt an earnest wish
of renewing it; and this for more reasons than one.
She wanted to hear many particulars of their engagement
repeated again, she wanted more clearly to understand
what Lucy really felt for Edward, whether there were any
sincerity in her declaration of tender regard for him,
and she particularly wanted to convince Lucy, by her
readiness to enter on the matter again, and her calmness
in conversing on it, that she was no otherwise interested
in it than as a friend, which she very much feared
her involuntary agitation, in their morning discourse,
must have left at least doubtful. That Lucy was disposed
to be jealous of her appeared very probable: it was plain
that Edward had always spoken highly in her praise,
not merely from Lucy's assertion, but from her venturing
to trust her on so short a personal acquaintance,
with a secret so confessedly and evidently important.
And even Sir John's joking intelligence must have had
some weight. But indeed, while Elinor remained so well
assured within herself of being really beloved by Edward,
it required no other consideration of probabilities
to make it natural that Lucy should be jealous;
and that she was so, her very confidence was a proof.
What other reason for the disclosure of the affair could
there be, but that Elinor might be informed by it of Lucy's
superior claims on Edward, and be taught to avoid him
in future? She had little difficulty in understanding thus
much of her rival's intentions, and while she was firmly
resolved to act by her as every principle of honour and
honesty directed, to combat her own affection for Edward
and to see him as little as possible; she could not deny
herself the comfort of endeavouring to convince Lucy
that her heart was unwounded. And as she could now have
nothing more painful to hear on the subject than had already
been told, she did not mistrust her own ability of going
through a repetition of particulars with composure.
But it was not immediately that an opportunity
of doing so could be commanded, though Lucy was as well
disposed as herself to take advantage of any that occurred;
for the weather was not often fine enough to allow
of their joining in a walk, where they might most easily
separate themselves from the others; and though they
met at least every other evening either at the park
or cottage, and chiefly at the former, they could
not be supposed to meet for the sake of conversation.
Such a thought would never enter either Sir John or Lady
Middleton's head; and therefore very little leisure
was ever given for a general chat, and none at all for
particular discourse. They met for the sake of eating,
drinking, and laughing together, playing at cards,
or consequences, or any other game that was sufficiently noisy.
One or two meetings of this kind had taken place,
without affording Elinor any chance of engaging Lucy
in private, when Sir John called at the cottage one morning,
to beg, in the name of charity, that they would all
dine with Lady Middleton that day, as he was obliged
to attend the club at Exeter, and she would otherwise be
quite alone, except her mother and the two Miss Steeles.
Elinor, who foresaw a fairer opening for the point she
had in view, in such a party as this was likely to be,
more at liberty among themselves under the tranquil
and well-bred direction of Lady Middleton than when
her husband united them together in one noisy purpose,
immediately accepted the invitation; Margaret, with her
mother's permission, was equally compliant, and Marianne,
though always unwilling to join any of their parties,
was persuaded by her mother, who could not bear to have her
seclude herself from any chance of amusement, to go likewise.
The young ladies went, and Lady Middleton was happily
preserved from the frightful solitude which had threatened her.
The insipidity of the meeting was exactly such as Elinor
had expected; it produced not one novelty of thought
or expression, and nothing could be less interesting
than the whole of their discourse both in the dining
parlour and drawing room: to the latter, the children
accompanied them, and while they remained there, she was
too well convinced of the impossibility of engaging Lucy's
attention to attempt it. They quitted it only with the
removal of the tea-things. The card-table was then placed,
and Elinor began to wonder at herself for having ever
entertained a hope of finding time for conversation
at the park. They all rose up in preparation for a round game.
"I am glad," said Lady Middleton to Lucy,
"you are not going to finish poor little Annamaria's
basket this evening; for I am sure it must hurt your
eyes to work filigree by candlelight. And we will make
the dear little love some amends for her disappointment
to-morrow, and then I hope she will not much mind it."
This hint was enough, Lucy recollected herself instantly
and replied, "Indeed you are very much mistaken,
Lady Middleton; I am only waiting to know whether you can
make your party without me, or I should have been at my
filigree already. I would not disappoint the little angel
for all the world: and if you want me at the card-table now,
I am resolved to finish the basket after supper."
"You are very good, I hope it won't hurt your eyes--
will you ring the bell for some working candles?
My poor little girl would be sadly disappointed, I know,
if the basket was not finished tomorrow, for though I
told her it certainly would not, I am sure she depends
upon having it done."
Lucy directly drew her work table near her
and reseated herself with an alacrity and cheerfulness
which seemed to infer that she could taste no greater
delight than in making a filigree basket for a spoilt child.
Lady Middleton proposed a rubber of Casino to the others.
No one made any objection but Marianne, who with her usual
inattention to the forms of general civility, exclaimed,
"Your Ladyship will have the goodness to excuse ME--you
know I detest cards. I shall go to the piano-forte;
I have not touched it since it was tuned." And without
farther ceremony, she turned away and walked to the instrument.
Lady Middleton looked as if she thanked heaven
that SHE had never made so rude a speech.
"Marianne can never keep long from that instrument
you know, ma'am," said Elinor, endeavouring to smooth
away the offence; "and I do not much wonder at it; for it
is the very best toned piano-forte I ever heard."
The remaining five were now to draw their cards.
"Perhaps," continued Elinor, "if I should happen
to cut out, I may be of some use to Miss Lucy Steele,
in rolling her papers for her; and there is so much still
to be done to the basket, that it must be impossible
I think for her labour singly, to finish it this evening.
I should like the work exceedingly, if she would allow
me a share in it."
"Indeed I shall be very much obliged to you
for your help," cried Lucy, "for I find there is more
to be done to it than I thought there was; and it would
be a shocking thing to disappoint dear Annamaria after all."
"Oh! that would be terrible, indeed," said Miss Steele--
"Dear little soul, how I do love her!"
"You are very kind," said Lady Middleton to Elinor;
"and as you really like the work, perhaps you will be
as well pleased not to cut in till another rubber,
or will you take your chance now?"
Elinor joyfully profited by the first of these proposals,
and thus by a little of that address which Marianne
could never condescend to practise, gained her own end,
and pleased Lady Middleton at the same time. Lucy made room
for her with ready attention, and the two fair rivals were
thus seated side by side at the same table, and, with the
utmost harmony, engaged in forwarding the same work.
The pianoforte at which Marianne, wrapped up in her own
music and her own thoughts, had by this time forgotten
that any body was in the room besides herself, was luckily
so near them that Miss Dashwood now judged she might safely,
under the shelter of its noise, introduce the interesting
subject, without any risk of being heard at the card-table.
In a firm, though cautious tone, Elinor thus began.
"I should be undeserving of the confidence you have
honoured me with, if I felt no desire for its continuance,
or no farther curiosity on its subject. I will
not apologize therefore for bringing it forward again."
"Thank you," cried Lucy warmly, "for breaking
the ice; you have set my heart at ease by it; for I was
somehow or other afraid I had offended you by what I
told you that Monday."
"Offended me! How could you suppose so? Believe me,"
and Elinor spoke it with the truest sincerity,
"nothing could be farther from my intention than to give
you such an idea. Could you have a motive for the trust,
that was not honourable and flattering to me?"
"And yet I do assure you," replied Lucy, her little
sharp eyes full of meaning, "there seemed to me to be
a coldness and displeasure in your manner that made me
quite uncomfortable. I felt sure that you was angry with me;
and have been quarrelling with myself ever since, for having
took such a liberty as to trouble you with my affairs.
But I am very glad to find it was only my own fancy,
and that you really do not blame me. If you knew what a
consolation it was to me to relieve my heart speaking to you
of what I am always thinking of every moment of my life,
your compassion would make you overlook every thing else
I am sure."
"Indeed, I can easily believe that it was a very great
relief to you, to acknowledge your situation to me, and be
assured that you shall never have reason to repent it.
Your case is a very unfortunate one; you seem to me to
be surrounded with difficulties, and you will have need
of all your mutual affection to support you under them.
Mr. Ferrars, I believe, is entirely dependent on his mother."
"He has only two thousand pounds of his own; it would
be madness to marry upon that, though for my own part,
I could give up every prospect of more without a sigh.
I have been always used to a very small income, and could
struggle with any poverty for him; but I love him too well
to be the selfish means of robbing him, perhaps, of all that
his mother might give him if he married to please her.
We must wait, it may be for many years. With almost every
other man in the world, it would be an alarming prospect;
but Edward's affection and constancy nothing can deprive me of
"That conviction must be every thing to you;
and he is undoubtedly supported by the same trust in your's.
If the strength of your reciprocal attachment had failed,
as between many people, and under many circumstances
it naturally would during a four years' engagement,
your situation would have been pitiable, indeed."
Lucy here looked up; but Elinor was careful
in guarding her countenance from every expression
that could give her words a suspicious tendency.
"Edward's love for me," said Lucy, "has been pretty
well put to the test, by our long, very long absence
since we were first engaged, and it has stood the trial
so well, that I should be unpardonable to doubt it now.
I can safely say that he has never gave me one moment's
alarm on that account from the first."
Elinor hardly knew whether to smile or sigh
at this assertion.
Lucy went on. "I am rather of a jealous temper too
by nature, and from our different situations in life,
from his being so much more in the world than me, and our
continual separation, I was enough inclined for suspicion,
to have found out the truth in an instant, if there had been
the slightest alteration in his behaviour to me when we met,
or any lowness of spirits that I could not account for,
or if he had talked more of one lady than another,
or seemed in any respect less happy at Longstaple than he
used to be. I do not mean to say that I am particularly
observant or quick-sighted in general, but in such a case
I am sure I could not be deceived."
"All this," thought Elinor, "is very pretty;
but it can impose upon neither of us."
"But what," said she after a short silence,
"are your views? or have you none but that of waiting for
Mrs. Ferrars's death, which is a melancholy and shocking
extremity?--Is her son determined to submit to this,
and to all the tediousness of the many years of suspense
in which it may involve you, rather than run the risk
of her displeasure for a while by owning the truth?"
"If we could be certain that it would be only
for a while! But Mrs. Ferrars is a very headstrong
proud woman, and in her first fit of anger upon hearing
it, would very likely secure every thing to Robert,
and the idea of that, for Edward's sake, frightens away
all my inclination for hasty measures."
"And for your own sake too, or you are carrying
your disinterestedness beyond reason."
Lucy looked at Elinor again, and was silent.
"Do you know Mr. Robert Ferrars?" asked Elinor.
"Not at all--I never saw him; but I fancy he
is very unlike his brother--silly and a great coxcomb."
"A great coxcomb!" repeated Miss Steele, whose ear had
caught those words by a sudden pause in Marianne's music.--
"Oh, they are talking of their favourite beaux, I dare say."
"No sister," cried Lucy, "you are mistaken there, our
favourite beaux are NOT great coxcombs."
"I can answer for it that Miss Dashwood's is not,"
said Mrs. Jennings, laughing heartily; "for he is one
of the modestest, prettiest behaved young men I ever saw;
but as for Lucy, she is such a sly little creature,
there is no finding out who SHE likes."
"Oh," cried Miss Steele, looking significantly round
at them, "I dare say Lucy's beau is quite as modest
and pretty behaved as Miss Dashwood's."
Elinor blushed in spite of herself. Lucy bit her lip,
and looked angrily at her sister. A mutual silence took
place for some time. Lucy first put an end to it by saying
in a lower tone, though Marianne was then giving them
the powerful protection of a very magnificent concerto--
"I will honestly tell you of one scheme which has
lately come into my head, for bringing matters to bear;
indeed I am bound to let you into the secret, for you
are a party concerned. I dare say you have seen enough
of Edward to know that he would prefer the church to every
other profession; now my plan is that he should take
orders as soon as he can, and then through your interest,
which I am sure you would be kind enough to use out of
friendship for him, and I hope out of some regard to me,
your brother might be persuaded to give him Norland living;
which I understand is a very good one, and the present
incumbent not likely to live a great while. That would
be enough for us to marry upon, and we might trust to time
and chance for the rest."
"I should always be happy," replied Elinor, "to show
any mark of my esteem and friendship for Mr. Ferrars;
but do you not perceive that my interest on such an
occasion would be perfectly unnecessary? He is brother
to Mrs. John Dashwood--THAT must be recommendation enough
to her husband."
"But Mrs. John Dashwood would not much approve
of Edward's going into orders."
"Then I rather suspect that my interest would
do very little."
They were again silent for many minutes. At length
Lucy exclaimed with a deep sigh,
"I believe it would be the wisest way to put an end
to the business at once by dissolving the engagement.
We seem so beset with difficulties on every side,
that though it would make us miserable for a time,
we should be happier perhaps in the end. But you will
not give me your advice, Miss Dashwood?"
"No," answered Elinor, with a smile, which concealed
very agitated feelings, "on such a subject I certainly
will not. You know very well that my opinion would have
no weight with you, unless it were on the side of your wishes."
"Indeed you wrong me," replied Lucy, with great
solemnity; "I know nobody of whose judgment I think
so highly as I do of yours; and I do really believe,
that if you was to say to me, 'I advise you by all means
to put an end to your engagement with Edward Ferrars,
it will be more for the happiness of both of you,'
I should resolve upon doing it immediately."
Elinor blushed for the insincerity of Edward's
future wife, and replied, "This compliment would effectually
frighten me from giving any opinion on the subject
had I formed one. It raises my influence much too high;
the power of dividing two people so tenderly attached
is too much for an indifferent person."
"'Tis because you are an indifferent person," said Lucy,
with some pique, and laying a particular stress on those words,
"that your judgment might justly have such weight with me.
If you could be supposed to be biased in any respect
by your own feelings, your opinion would not be worth having."
Elinor thought it wisest to make no answer to this,
lest they might provoke each other to an unsuitable increase
of ease and unreserve; and was even partly determined
never to mention the subject again. Another pause
therefore of many minutes' duration, succeeded this speech,
and Lucy was still the first to end it.
"Shall you be in town this winter, Miss Dashwood?"
said she with all her accustomary complacency.
"I am sorry for that," returned the other,
while her eyes brightened at the information,
"it would have gave me such pleasure to meet you there!
But I dare say you will go for all that. To be sure,
your brother and sister will ask you to come to them."
"It will not be in my power to accept their invitation
if they do."
"How unlucky that is! I had quite depended upon
meeting you there. Anne and me are to go the latter end
of January to some relations who have been wanting us to
visit them these several years! But I only go for the sake
of seeing Edward. He will be there in February, otherwise
London would have no charms for me; I have not spirits for it."
Elinor was soon called to the card-table by the
conclusion of the first rubber, and the confidential
discourse of the two ladies was therefore at an end,
to which both of them submitted without any reluctance,
for nothing had been said on either side to make them
dislike each other less than they had done before;
and Elinor sat down to the card table with the melancholy
persuasion that Edward was not only without affection
for the person who was to be his wife; but that he had
not even the chance of being tolerably happy in marriage,
which sincere affection on HER side would have given,
for self-interest alone could induce a woman to keep a man
to an engagement, of which she seemed so thoroughly aware
that he was weary.
From this time the subject was never revived by Elinor,
and when entered on by Lucy, who seldom missed an opportunity
of introducing it, and was particularly careful to inform
her confidante, of her happiness whenever she received a letter
from Edward, it was treated by the former with calmness
and caution, and dismissed as soon as civility would allow;
for she felt such conversations to be an indulgence which
Lucy did not deserve, and which were dangerous to herself.
The visit of the Miss Steeles at Barton Park was
lengthened far beyond what the first invitation implied.
Their favour increased; they could not be spared;
Sir John would not hear of their going; and in spite
of their numerous and long arranged engagements in Exeter,
in spite of the absolute necessity of returning to fulfill
them immediately, which was in full force at the end
of every week, they were prevailed on to stay nearly two
months at the park, and to assist in the due celebration
of that festival which requires a more than ordinary
share of private balls and large dinners to proclaim
Though Mrs. Jennings was in the habit of spending a large
portion of the year at the houses of her children and friends,
she was not without a settled habitation of her own.
Since the death of her husband, who had traded with success
in a less elegant part of the town, she had resided every
winter in a house in one of the streets near Portman Square.
Towards this home, she began on the approach of January
to turn her thoughts, and thither she one day abruptly,
and very unexpectedly by them, asked the elder Misses
Dashwood to accompany her. Elinor, without observing
the varying complexion of her sister, and the animated look
which spoke no indifference to the plan, immediately gave
a grateful but absolute denial for both, in which she
believed herself to be speaking their united inclinations.
The reason alleged was their determined resolution
of not leaving their mother at that time of the year.
Mrs. Jennings received the refusal with some surprise,
and repeated her invitation immediately.
"Oh, Lord! I am sure your mother can spare you
very well, and I DO beg you will favour me with
your company, for I've quite set my heart upon it.
Don't fancy that you will be any inconvenience to me,
for I shan't put myself at all out of my way for you.
It will only be sending Betty by the coach, and I
hope I can afford THAT. We three shall be able to go
very well in my chaise; and when we are in town,
if you do not like to go wherever I do, well and good,
you may always go with one of my daughters. I am sure
your mother will not object to it; for I have had such
good luck in getting my own children off my hands that she
will think me a very fit person to have the charge of you;
and if I don't get one of you at least well married
before I have done with you, it shall not be my fault.
I shall speak a good word for you to all the young men,
you may depend upon it."
"I have a notion," said Sir John, "that Miss Marianne
would not object to such a scheme, if her elder sister
would come into it. It is very hard indeed that she
should not have a little pleasure, because Miss Dashwood
does not wish it. So I would advise you two, to set off
for town, when you are tired of Barton, without saying
a word to Miss Dashwood about it."
"Nay," cried Mrs. Jennings, "I am sure I shall be
monstrous glad of Miss Marianne's company, whether Miss
Dashwood will go or not, only the more the merrier say I,
and I thought it would be more comfortable for them to
be together; because, if they got tired of me, they might talk
to one another, and laugh at my old ways behind my back.
But one or the other, if not both of them, I must have.
Lord bless me! how do you think I can live poking by myself,
I who have been always used till this winter to have
Charlotte with me. Come, Miss Marianne, let us strike
hands upon the bargain, and if Miss Dashwood will change
her mind by and bye, why so much the better."
"I thank you, ma'am, sincerely thank you," said Marianne,
with warmth: "your invitation has insured my gratitude for ever,
and it would give me such happiness, yes, almost the greatest
happiness I am capable of, to be able to accept it.
But my mother, my dearest, kindest mother,--I feel the
justice of what Elinor has urged, and if she were to be
made less happy, less comfortable by our absence--Oh! no,
nothing should tempt me to leave her. It should not,
must not be a struggle."
Mrs. Jennings repeated her assurance that Mrs. Dashwood
could spare them perfectly well; and Elinor, who now
understood her sister, and saw to what indifference to
almost every thing else she was carried by her eagerness
to be with Willoughby again, made no farther direct
opposition to the plan, and merely referred it to her
mother's decision, from whom however she scarcely expected
to receive any support in her endeavour to prevent a visit,
which she could not approve of for Marianne, and which
on her own account she had particular reasons to avoid.
Whatever Marianne was desirous of, her mother would be eager
to promote--she could not expect to influence the latter
to cautiousness of conduct in an affair respecting which she
had never been able to inspire her with distrust; and she
dared not explain the motive of her own disinclination
for going to London. That Marianne, fastidious as she was,
thoroughly acquainted with Mrs. Jennings' manners,
and invariably disgusted by them, should overlook every
inconvenience of that kind, should disregard whatever
must be most wounding to her irritable feelings, in her
pursuit of one object, was such a proof, so strong,
so full, of the importance of that object to her, as Elinor,
in spite of all that had passed, was not prepared to witness.
On being informed of the invitation, Mrs. Dashwood,
persuaded that such an excursion would be productive
of much amusement to both her daughters, and perceiving
through all her affectionate attention to herself,
how much the heart of Marianne was in it, would not hear
of their declining the offer upon HER account; insisted on
their both accepting it directly; and then began to foresee,
with her usual cheerfulness, a variety of advantages that
would accrue to them all, from this separation.
"I am delighted with the plan," she cried,
"it is exactly what I could wish. Margaret and I shall
be as much benefited by it as yourselves. When you
and the Middletons are gone, we shall go on so quietly
and happily together with our books and our music! You
will find Margaret so improved when you come back again!
I have a little plan of alteration for your bedrooms too,
which may now be performed without any inconvenience
to any one. It is very right that you SHOULD go to town;
I would have every young woman of your condition in life
acquainted with the manners and amusements of London.
You will be under the care of a motherly good sort
of woman, of whose kindness to you I can have no doubt.
And in all probability you will see your brother,
and whatever may be his faults, or the faults of his wife,
when I consider whose son he is, I cannot bear to have you so
wholly estranged from each other."
"Though with your usual anxiety for our happiness,"
said Elinor, "you have been obviating every impediment
to the present scheme which occurred to you, there is
still one objection which, in my opinion, cannot be so
Marianne's countenance sunk.
"And what," said Mrs. Dashwood, "is my dear prudent
Elinor going to suggest? What formidable obstacle is she
now to bring forward? Do let me hear a word about the
expense of it."
"My objection is this; though I think very well of
Mrs. Jennings's heart, she is not a woman whose society
can afford us pleasure, or whose protection will give
"That is very true," replied her mother, "but of
her society, separately from that of other people,
you will scarcely have any thing at all, and you will
almost always appear in public with Lady Middleton."
"If Elinor is frightened away by her dislike of
Mrs. Jennings," said Marianne, "at least it need not prevent
MY accepting her invitation. I have no such scruples,
and I am sure I could put up with every unpleasantness
of that kind with very little effort."
Elinor could not help smiling at this display of
indifference towards the manners of a person, to whom she
had often had difficulty in persuading Marianne to behave
with tolerable politeness; and resolved within herself,
that if her sister persisted in going, she would
go likewise, as she did not think it proper that Marianne
should be left to the sole guidance of her own judgment,
or that Mrs. Jennings should be abandoned to the mercy
of Marianne for all the comfort of her domestic hours.
To this determination she was the more easily reconciled,
by recollecting that Edward Ferrars, by Lucy's account,
was not to be in town before February; and that
their visit, without any unreasonable abridgement,
might be previously finished.
"I will have you BOTH go," said Mrs. Dashwood;
"these objections are nonsensical. You will have much
pleasure in being in London, and especially in being together;
and if Elinor would ever condescend to anticipate enjoyment,
she would foresee it there from a variety of sources;
she would, perhaps, expect some from improving her
acquaintance with her sister-in-law's family."