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Sense and Sensibility, a novel by Jane Austen


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_ When the particulars of this conversation were repeated
by Miss Dashwood to her sister, as they very soon were,
the effect on her was not entirely such as the former
had hoped to see. Not that Marianne appeared to distrust
the truth of any part of it, for she listened to it all
with the most steady and submissive attention, made neither
objection nor remark, attempted no vindication of Willoughby,
and seemed to shew by her tears that she felt it to
be impossible. But though this behaviour assured Elinor
that the conviction of this guilt WAS carried home to
her mind, though she saw with satisfaction the effect of it,
in her no longer avoiding Colonel Brandon when he called,
in her speaking to him, even voluntarily speaking,
with a kind of compassionate respect, and though she
saw her spirits less violently irritated than before,
she did not see her less wretched. Her mind did become
settled, but it was settled in a gloomy dejection.
She felt the loss of Willoughby's character yet more heavily
than she had felt the loss of his heart; his seduction and
desertion of Miss Williams, the misery of that poor girl,
and the doubt of what his designs might ONCE have been
on herself, preyed altogether so much on her spirits,
that she could not bring herself to speak of what she felt
even to Elinor; and, brooding over her sorrows in silence,
gave more pain to her sister than could have been communicated
by the most open and most frequent confession of them.

To give the feelings or the language of Mrs. Dashwood
on receiving and answering Elinor's letter would be only
to give a repetition of what her daughters had already felt
and said; of a disappointment hardly less painful than
Marianne's, and an indignation even greater than Elinor's.
Long letters from her, quickly succeeding each other,
arrived to tell all that she suffered and thought;
to express her anxious solicitude for Marianne, and entreat
she would bear up with fortitude under this misfortune.
Bad indeed must the nature of Marianne's affliction be,
when her mother could talk of fortitude! mortifying
and humiliating must be the origin of those regrets,
which SHE could wish her not to indulge!

Against the interest of her own individual comfort,
Mrs. Dashwood had determined that it would be better for
Marianne to be any where, at that time, than at Barton,
where every thing within her view would be bringing back
the past in the strongest and most afflicting manner,
by constantly placing Willoughby before her, such as
she had always seen him there. She recommended it to
her daughters, therefore, by all means not to shorten their
visit to Mrs. Jennings; the length of which, though never
exactly fixed, had been expected by all to comprise at least
five or six weeks. A variety of occupations, of objects,
and of company, which could not be procured at Barton,
would be inevitable there, and might yet, she hoped,
cheat Marianne, at times, into some interest beyond herself,
and even into some amusement, much as the ideas of both
might now be spurned by her.

From all danger of seeing Willoughby again,
her mother considered her to be at least equally safe
in town as in the country, since his acquaintance must
now be dropped by all who called themselves her friends.
Design could never bring them in each other's way:
negligence could never leave them exposed to a surprise;
and chance had less in its favour in the crowd of London
than even in the retirement of Barton, where it might
force him before her while paying that visit at Allenham
on his marriage, which Mrs. Dashwood, from foreseeing at
first as a probable event, had brought herself to expect
as a certain one.

She had yet another reason for wishing her children
to remain where they were; a letter from her son-in-law
had told her that he and his wife were to be in town
before the middle of February, and she judged it right
that they should sometimes see their brother.

Marianne had promised to be guided by her mother's opinion,
and she submitted to it therefore without opposition,
though it proved perfectly different from what she wished
and expected, though she felt it to be entirely wrong,
formed on mistaken grounds, and that by requiring her
longer continuance in London it deprived her of the only
possible alleviation of her wretchedness, the personal
sympathy of her mother, and doomed her to such society and
such scenes as must prevent her ever knowing a moment's rest.

But it was a matter of great consolation to her,
that what brought evil to herself would bring good to
her sister; and Elinor, on the other hand, suspecting that
it would not be in her power to avoid Edward entirely,
comforted herself by thinking, that though their longer
stay would therefore militate against her own happiness,
it would be better for Marianne than an immediate return
into Devonshire.

Her carefulness in guarding her sister from ever
hearing Willoughby's name mentioned, was not thrown away.
Marianne, though without knowing it herself, reaped all
its advantage; for neither Mrs. Jennings, nor Sir John,
nor even Mrs. Palmer herself, ever spoke of him before her.
Elinor wished that the same forbearance could have extended
towards herself, but that was impossible, and she was
obliged to listen day after day to the indignation of them all.

Sir John, could not have thought it possible.
"A man of whom he had always had such reason to think well!
Such a good-natured fellow! He did not believe there was a
bolder rider in England! It was an unaccountable business.
He wished him at the devil with all his heart. He would
not speak another word to him, meet him where he might,
for all the world! No, not if it were to be by the side
of Barton covert, and they were kept watching for two
hours together. Such a scoundrel of a fellow! such
a deceitful dog! It was only the last time they met
that he had offered him one of Folly's puppies! and this
was the end of it!"

Mrs. Palmer, in her way, was equally angry.
"She was determined to drop his acquaintance immediately,
and she was very thankful that she had never been acquainted
with him at all. She wished with all her heart Combe
Magna was not so near Cleveland; but it did not signify,
for it was a great deal too far off to visit; she hated
him so much that she was resolved never to mention
his name again, and she should tell everybody she saw,
how good-for-nothing he was."

The rest of Mrs. Palmer's sympathy was shewn in procuring
all the particulars in her power of the approaching marriage,
and communicating them to Elinor. She could soon tell
at what coachmaker's the new carriage was building,
by what painter Mr. Willoughby's portrait was drawn,
and at what warehouse Miss Grey's clothes might be seen.

The calm and polite unconcern of Lady Middleton
on the occasion was a happy relief to Elinor's spirits,
oppressed as they often were by the clamorous kindness
of the others. It was a great comfort to her to be sure
of exciting no interest in ONE person at least among their
circle of friends: a great comfort to know that there
was ONE who would meet her without feeling any curiosity
after particulars, or any anxiety for her sister's health.

Every qualification is raised at times, by the
circumstances of the moment, to more than its real value;
and she was sometimes worried down by officious condolence
to rate good-breeding as more indispensable to comfort
than good-nature.

Lady Middleton expressed her sense of the affair
about once every day, or twice, if the subject occurred
very often, by saying, "It is very shocking, indeed!"
and by the means of this continual though gentle vent,
was able not only to see the Miss Dashwoods from the
first without the smallest emotion, but very soon
to see them without recollecting a word of the matter;
and having thus supported the dignity of her own sex,
and spoken her decided censure of what was wrong
in the other, she thought herself at liberty to attend
to the interest of her own assemblies, and therefore
determined (though rather against the opinion of Sir John)
that as Mrs. Willoughby would at once be a woman of elegance
and fortune, to leave her card with her as soon as she married.

Colonel Brandon's delicate, unobtrusive enquiries
were never unwelcome to Miss Dashwood. He had abundantly
earned the privilege of intimate discussion of her
sister's disappointment, by the friendly zeal with
which he had endeavoured to soften it, and they always
conversed with confidence. His chief reward for the
painful exertion of disclosing past sorrows and present
humiliations, was given in the pitying eye with which
Marianne sometimes observed him, and the gentleness
of her voice whenever (though it did not often happen)
she was obliged, or could oblige herself to speak to him.
THESE assured him that his exertion had produced an
increase of good-will towards himself, and THESE gave
Elinor hopes of its being farther augmented hereafter;
but Mrs. Jennings, who knew nothing of all this, who knew
only that the Colonel continued as grave as ever, and that
she could neither prevail on him to make the offer himself,
nor commission her to make it for him, began, at the
end of two days, to think that, instead of Midsummer,
they would not be married till Michaelmas, and by the
end of a week that it would not be a match at all.
The good understanding between the Colonel and Miss
Dashwood seemed rather to declare that the honours
of the mulberry-tree, the canal, and the yew arbour,
would all be made over to HER; and Mrs. Jennings had,
for some time ceased to think at all of Mrs. Ferrars.

Early in February, within a fortnight from the
receipt of Willoughby's letter, Elinor had the painful
office of informing her sister that he was married.
She had taken care to have the intelligence conveyed
to herself, as soon as it was known that the ceremony
was over, as she was desirous that Marianne should not
receive the first notice of it from the public papers,
which she saw her eagerly examining every morning.

She received the news with resolute composure;
made no observation on it, and at first shed no tears;
but after a short time they would burst out, and for the
rest of the day, she was in a state hardly less pitiable
than when she first learnt to expect the event.

The Willoughbys left town as soon as they were married;
and Elinor now hoped, as there could be no danger
of her seeing either of them, to prevail on her sister,
who had never yet left the house since the blow first fell,
to go out again by degrees as she had done before.

About this time the two Miss Steeles, lately arrived
at their cousin's house in Bartlett's Buildings,
Holburn, presented themselves again before their more
grand relations in Conduit and Berkeley Streets;
and were welcomed by them all with great cordiality.

Elinor only was sorry to see them. Their presence
always gave her pain, and she hardly knew how to make
a very gracious return to the overpowering delight of Lucy
in finding her STILL in town.

"I should have been quite disappointed if I had not
found you here STILL," said she repeatedly, with a strong
emphasis on the word. "But I always thought I SHOULD.
I was almost sure you would not leave London yet awhile;
though you TOLD me, you know, at Barton, that you should
not stay above a MONTH. But I thought, at the time,
that you would most likely change your mind when it came
to the point. It would have been such a great pity
to have went away before your brother and sister came.
And now to be sure you will be in no hurry to be gone.
I am amazingly glad you did not keep to YOUR WORD."

Elinor perfectly understood her, and was forced
to use all her self-command to make it appear that she
did NOT.

"Well, my dear," said Mrs. Jennings, "and how did
you travel?"

"Not in the stage, I assure you," replied Miss Steele,
with quick exultation; "we came post all the way, and had
a very smart beau to attend us. Dr. Davies was coming
to town, and so we thought we'd join him in a post-chaise;
and he behaved very genteelly, and paid ten or twelve
shillings more than we did."

"Oh, oh!" cried Mrs. Jennings; "very pretty,
indeed! and the Doctor is a single man, I warrant you."

"There now," said Miss Steele, affectedly simpering,
"everybody laughs at me so about the Doctor, and I
cannot think why. My cousins say they are sure I have
made a conquest; but for my part I declare I never think
about him from one hour's end to another. 'Lord! here
comes your beau, Nancy,' my cousin said t'other day,
when she saw him crossing the street to the house.
My beau, indeed! said I--I cannot think who you mean.
The Doctor is no beau of mine."

"Aye, aye, that is very pretty talking--but it won't do--
the Doctor is the man, I see."

"No, indeed!" replied her cousin, with affected earnestness,
"and I beg you will contradict it, if you ever hear it talked

Mrs. Jennings directly gave her the gratifying
assurance that she certainly would NOT, and Miss Steele
was made completely happy.

"I suppose you will go and stay with your brother
and sister, Miss Dashwood, when they come to town,"
said Lucy, returning, after a cessation of hostile hints,
to the charge.

"No, I do not think we shall."

"Oh, yes, I dare say you will."

Elinor would not humour her by farther opposition.

"What a charming thing it is that Mrs. Dashwood can
spare you both for so long a time together!"

"Long a time, indeed!" interposed Mrs. Jennings.
"Why, their visit is but just begun!"

Lucy was silenced.

"I am sorry we cannot see your sister, Miss Dashwood,"
said Miss Steele. "I am sorry she is not well--"
for Marianne had left the room on their arrival.

"You are very good. My sister will be equally
sorry to miss the pleasure of seeing you; but she has
been very much plagued lately with nervous head-aches,
which make her unfit for company or conversation."

"Oh, dear, that is a great pity! but such old
friends as Lucy and me!--I think she might see US;
and I am sure we would not speak a word."

Elinor, with great civility, declined the proposal.
Her sister was perhaps laid down upon the bed, or in her
dressing gown, and therefore not able to come to them.

"Oh, if that's all," cried Miss Steele, "we can
just as well go and see HER."

Elinor began to find this impertinence too much for
her temper; but she was saved the trouble of checking it,
by Lucy's sharp reprimand, which now, as on many occasions,
though it did not give much sweetness to the manners
of one sister, was of advantage in governing those of
the other. _

Read next: VOLUME 2: CHAPTER 33

Read previous: VOLUME 2: CHAPTER 31

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