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Sense and Sensibility, a novel by Jane Austen


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_ Edward remained a week at the cottage; he was earnestly
pressed by Mrs. Dashwood to stay longer; but, as if he
were bent only on self-mortification, he seemed resolved
to be gone when his enjoyment among his friends was at
the height. His spirits, during the last two or three days,
though still very unequal, were greatly improved--he grew
more and more partial to the house and environs--never
spoke of going away without a sigh--declared his time
to be wholly disengaged--even doubted to what place he
should go when he left them--but still, go he must.
Never had any week passed so quickly--he could hardly
believe it to be gone. He said so repeatedly; other things
he said too, which marked the turn of his feelings and gave
the lie to his actions. He had no pleasure at Norland;
he detested being in town; but either to Norland or London,
he must go. He valued their kindness beyond any thing,
and his greatest happiness was in being with them.
Yet, he must leave them at the end of a week, in spite
of their wishes and his own, and without any restraint
on his time.

Elinor placed all that was astonishing in this
way of acting to his mother's account; and it was
happy for her that he had a mother whose character
was so imperfectly known to her, as to be the general
excuse for every thing strange on the part of her son.
Disappointed, however, and vexed as she was, and sometimes
displeased with his uncertain behaviour to herself,
she was very well disposed on the whole to regard his actions
with all the candid allowances and generous qualifications,
which had been rather more painfully extorted from her,
for Willoughby's service, by her mother. His want of spirits,
of openness, and of consistency, were most usually
attributed to his want of independence, and his better
knowledge of Mrs. Ferrars's disposition and designs.
The shortness of his visit, the steadiness of his purpose
in leaving them, originated in the same fettered inclination,
the same inevitable necessity of temporizing with his mother.
The old well-established grievance of duty against will,
parent against child, was the cause of all. She would have
been glad to know when these difficulties were to cease,
this opposition was to yield,--when Mrs. Ferrars would
be reformed, and her son be at liberty to be happy.
But from such vain wishes she was forced to turn for comfort
to the renewal of her confidence in Edward's affection,
to the remembrance of every mark of regard in look or word
which fell from him while at Barton, and above all
to that flattering proof of it which he constantly wore
round his finger.

"I think, Edward," said Mrs. Dashwood, as they were
at breakfast the last morning, "you would be a happier man
if you had any profession to engage your time and give
an interest to your plans and actions. Some inconvenience
to your friends, indeed, might result from it--you
would not be able to give them so much of your time.
But (with a smile) you would be materially benefited
in one particular at least--you would know where to go
when you left them."

"I do assure you," he replied, "that I have long
thought on this point, as you think now. It has been,
and is, and probably will always be a heavy misfortune
to me, that I have had no necessary business to engage me,
no profession to give me employment, or afford me any
thing like independence. But unfortunately my own nicety,
and the nicety of my friends, have made me what I am,
an idle, helpless being. We never could agree in our
choice of a profession. I always preferred the church,
as I still do. But that was not smart enough for my family.
They recommended the army. That was a great deal
too smart for me. The law was allowed to be genteel
enough; many young men, who had chambers in the Temple,
made a very good appearance in the first circles,
and drove about town in very knowing gigs. But I had
no inclination for the law, even in this less abstruse
study of it, which my family approved. As for the navy,
it had fashion on its side, but I was too old when the
subject was first started to enter it--and, at length,
as there was no necessity for my having any profession
at all, as I might be as dashing and expensive without
a red coat on my back as with one, idleness was pronounced
on the whole to be most advantageous and honourable,
and a young man of eighteen is not in general so earnestly
bent on being busy as to resist the solicitations of his
friends to do nothing. I was therefore entered at Oxford
and have been properly idle ever since."

"The consequence of which, I suppose, will be,"
said Mrs. Dashwood, "since leisure has not promoted
your own happiness, that your sons will be brought up
to as many pursuits, employments, professions, and trades
as Columella's."

"They will be brought up," said he, in a serious accent,
"to be as unlike myself as is possible. In feeling,
in action, in condition, in every thing."

"Come, come; this is all an effusion of immediate
want of spirits, Edward. You are in a melancholy humour,
and fancy that any one unlike yourself must be happy.
But remember that the pain of parting from friends
will be felt by every body at times, whatever be their
education or state. Know your own happiness. You want
nothing but patience--or give it a more fascinating name,
call it hope. Your mother will secure to you, in time,
that independence you are so anxious for; it is her duty,
and it will, it must ere long become her happiness to
prevent your whole youth from being wasted in discontent.
How much may not a few months do?"

"I think," replied Edward, "that I may defy many
months to produce any good to me."

This desponding turn of mind, though it could not
be communicated to Mrs. Dashwood, gave additional pain
to them all in the parting, which shortly took place,
and left an uncomfortable impression on Elinor's
feelings especially, which required some trouble and time
to subdue. But as it was her determination to subdue it,
and to prevent herself from appearing to suffer more than
what all her family suffered on his going away, she did
not adopt the method so judiciously employed by Marianne,
on a similar occasion, to augment and fix her sorrow,
by seeking silence, solitude and idleness. Their means
were as different as their objects, and equally suited
to the advancement of each.

Elinor sat down to her drawing-table as soon as he
was out of the house, busily employed herself the whole day,
neither sought nor avoided the mention of his name,
appeared to interest herself almost as much as ever in the
general concerns of the family, and if, by this conduct,
she did not lessen her own grief, it was at least prevented
from unnecessary increase, and her mother and sisters
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
back again"--

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
you all!"

Mrs. Palmer laughed, and said it would not do her
any harm.

"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." _

Read next: VOLUME 1: CHAPTER 20

Read previous: VOLUME 1: CHAPTER 18

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