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Sense and Sensibility, a novel by Jane Austen


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_ Mrs. Palmer was so well at the end of a fortnight,
that her mother felt it no longer necessary to give up
the whole of her time to her; and, contenting herself with
visiting her once or twice a day, returned from that period
to her own home, and her own habits, in which she found
the Miss Dashwoods very ready to resume their former share.

About the third or fourth morning after their
being thus resettled in Berkeley Street, Mrs. Jennings,
on returning from her ordinary visit to Mrs. Palmer,
entered the drawing-room, where Elinor was sitting
by herself, with an air of such hurrying importance
as prepared her to hear something wonderful; and giving her
time only to form that idea, began directly to justify it,
by saying,

"Lord! my dear Miss Dashwood! have you heard the news?"

"No, ma'am. What is it?"

"Something so strange! But you shall hear it all.--
When I got to Mr. Palmer's, I found Charlotte quite
in a fuss about the child. She was sure it was very
ill--it cried, and fretted, and was all over pimples.
So I looked at it directly, and, 'Lord! my dear,'
says I, 'it is nothing in the world, but the red gum--'
and nurse said just the same. But Charlotte, she would
not be satisfied, so Mr. Donavan was sent for; and luckily
he happened to just come in from Harley Street, so he
stepped over directly, and as soon as ever he saw the child,
be said just as we did, that it was nothing in the world
but the red gum, and then Charlotte was easy. And so,
just as he was going away again, it came into my head,
I am sure I do not know how I happened to think of it,
but it came into my head to ask him if there was any news.
So upon that, he smirked, and simpered, and looked grave,
and seemed to know something or other, and at last he
said in a whisper, 'For fear any unpleasant report
should reach the young ladies under your care as to their
sister's indisposition, I think it advisable to say,
that I believe there is no great reason for alarm; I hope
Mrs. Dashwood will do very well.'"

"What! is Fanny ill?"

"That is exactly what I said, my dear. 'Lord!' says I,
'is Mrs. Dashwood ill?' So then it all came out; and the
long and the short of the matter, by all I can learn,
seems to be this. Mr. Edward Ferrars, the very young
man I used to joke with you about (but however, as it
turns out, I am monstrous glad there was never any thing
in it), Mr. Edward Ferrars, it seems, has been engaged
above this twelvemonth to my cousin Lucy!--There's for you,
my dear!--And not a creature knowing a syllable of the matter,
except Nancy!--Could you have believed such a thing possible?--
There is no great wonder in their liking one another;
but that matters should be brought so forward between them,
and nobody suspect it!--THAT is strange!--I never happened
to see them together, or I am sure I should have found it
out directly. Well, and so this was kept a great secret,
for fear of Mrs. Ferrars, and neither she nor your
brother or sister suspected a word of the matter;--
till this very morning, poor Nancy, who, you know, is a
well-meaning creature, but no conjurer, popt it all out.
'Lord!' thinks she to herself, 'they are all so fond
of Lucy, to be sure they will make no difficulty about it;'
and so, away she went to your sister, who was sitting all
alone at her carpet-work, little suspecting what was to
come--for she had just been saying to your brother, only five
minutes before, that she thought to make a match between
Edward and some Lord's daughter or other, I forget who.
So you may think what a blow it was to all her vanity
and pride. She fell into violent hysterics immediately,
with such screams as reached your brother's ears,
as he was sitting in his own dressing-room down stairs,
thinking about writing a letter to his steward in the country.
So up he flew directly, and a terrible scene took place,
for Lucy was come to them by that time, little dreaming
what was going on. Poor soul! I pity HER. And I must say,
I think she was used very hardly; for your sister scolded
like any fury, and soon drove her into a fainting fit.
Nancy, she fell upon her knees, and cried bitterly;
and your brother, he walked about the room, and said
he did not know what to do. Mrs. Dashwood declared
they should not stay a minute longer in the house,
and your brother was forced to go down upon HIS knees too,
to persuade her to let them stay till they had packed
up their clothes. THEN she fell into hysterics again,
and he was so frightened that he would send for Mr. Donavan,
and Mr. Donavan found the house in all this uproar.
The carriage was at the door ready to take my poor
cousins away, and they were just stepping in as he
came off; poor Lucy in such a condition, he says,
she could hardly walk; and Nancy, she was almost as bad.
I declare, I have no patience with your sister; and I hope,
with all my heart, it will be a match in spite of her.
Lord! what a taking poor Mr. Edward will be in when he
hears of it! To have his love used so scornfully! for
they say he is monstrous fond of her, as well he may.
I should not wonder, if he was to be in the greatest
passion!--and Mr. Donavan thinks just the same. He and I
had a great deal of talk about it; and the best of all is,
that he is gone back again to Harley Street, that he may
be within call when Mrs. Ferrars is told of it, for she
was sent for as soon as ever my cousins left the house,
for your sister was sure SHE would be in hysterics too;
and so she may, for what I care. I have no pity for
either of them. I have no notion of people's making
such a to-do about money and greatness. There is no
reason on earth why Mr. Edward and Lucy should not marry;
for I am sure Mrs. Ferrars may afford to do very well
by her son, and though Lucy has next to nothing herself,
she knows better than any body how to make the most
of every thing; I dare say, if Mrs. Ferrars would only
allow him five hundred a-year, she would make as good
an appearance with it as any body else would with eight.
Lord! how snug they might live in such another cottage
as yours--or a little bigger--with two maids, and two men;
and I believe I could help them to a housemaid, for my
Betty has a sister out of place, that would fit them

Here Mrs. Jennings ceased, and as Elinor had had
time enough to collect her thoughts, she was able
to give such an answer, and make such observations,
as the subject might naturally be supposed to produce.
Happy to find that she was not suspected of any extraordinary
interest in it; that Mrs. Jennings (as she had of late
often hoped might be the case) had ceased to imagine her
at all attached to Edward; and happy above all the rest,
in the absence of Marianne, she felt very well able
to speak of the affair without embarrassment, and to
give her judgment, as she believed, with impartiality
on the conduct of every one concerned in it.

She could hardly determine what her own expectation
of its event really was; though she earnestly tried
to drive away the notion of its being possible to end
otherwise at last, than in the marriage of Edward and Lucy.
What Mrs. Ferrars would say and do, though there could
not be a doubt of its nature, she was anxious to hear;
and still more anxious to know how Edward would
conduct himself. For HIM she felt much compassion;--
for Lucy very little--and it cost her some pains to procure
that little;--for the rest of the party none at all.

As Mrs. Jennings could talk on no other subject,
Elinor soon saw the necessity of preparing Marianne for
its discussion. No time was to be lost in undeceiving her,
in making her acquainted with the real truth, and in
endeavouring to bring her to hear it talked of by others,
without betraying that she felt any uneasiness for her sister,
or any resentment against Edward.

Elinor's office was a painful one.--She was going
to remove what she really believed to be her sister's
chief consolation,--to give such particulars of Edward as she
feared would ruin him for ever in her good opinion,-and
to make Marianne, by a resemblance in their situations,
which to HER fancy would seem strong, feel all her own
disappointment over again. But unwelcome as such a task
must be, it was necessary to be done, and Elinor therefore
hastened to perform it.

She was very far from wishing to dwell on her own
feelings, or to represent herself as suffering much,
any otherwise than as the self-command she had practised
since her first knowledge of Edward's engagement, might
suggest a hint of what was practicable to Marianne.
Her narration was clear and simple; and though it could
not be given without emotion, it was not accompanied
by violent agitation, nor impetuous grief.--THAT belonged
rather to the hearer, for Marianne listened with horror,
and cried excessively. Elinor was to be the comforter
of others in her own distresses, no less than in theirs;
and all the comfort that could be given by assurances
of her own composure of mind, and a very earnest
vindication of Edward from every charge but of imprudence,
was readily offered.

But Marianne for some time would give credit to neither.
Edward seemed a second Willoughby; and acknowledging
as Elinor did, that she HAD loved him most sincerely,
could she feel less than herself! As for Lucy Steele,
she considered her so totally unamiable, so absolutely
incapable of attaching a sensible man, that she could
not be persuaded at first to believe, and afterwards
to pardon, any former affection of Edward for her.
She would not even admit it to have been natural;
and Elinor left her to be convinced that it was so,
by that which only could convince her, a better knowledge
of mankind.

Her first communication had reached no farther than
to state the fact of the engagement, and the length of time
it had existed.--Marianne's feelings had then broken in,
and put an end to all regularity of detail; and for some
time all that could be done was to soothe her distress,
lessen her alarms, and combat her resentment. The first
question on her side, which led to farther particulars,

"How long has this been known to you, Elinor? has
he written to you?"

"I have known it these four months. When Lucy
first came to Barton Park last November, she told me
in confidence of her engagement."

At these words, Marianne's eyes expressed the astonishment
which her lips could not utter. After a pause of wonder,
she exclaimed--

"Four months!--Have you known of this four months?"

Elinor confirmed it.

"What!--while attending me in all my misery, has this
been on your heart?--And I have reproached you for being

"It was not fit that you should then know how much
I was the reverse!"

"Four months!"--cried Marianne again.--"So calm!--
so cheerful!--how have you been supported?"--

"By feeling that I was doing my duty.--My promise to
Lucy, obliged me to be secret. I owed it to her, therefore,
to avoid giving any hint of the truth; and I owed it to my
family and friends, not to create in them a solicitude about me,
which it could not be in my power to satisfy."

Marianne seemed much struck.

"I have very often wished to undeceive yourself and my
mother," added Elinor; "and once or twice I have attempted it;--
but without betraying my trust, I never could have convinced

"Four months!--and yet you loved him!"--

"Yes. But I did not love only him;--and while the comfort
of others was dear to me, I was glad to spare them from knowing
how much I felt. Now, I can think and speak of it with
little emotion. I would not have you suffer on my account;
for I assure you I no longer suffer materially myself.
I have many things to support me. I am not conscious of having
provoked the disappointment by any imprudence of my own,
I have borne it as much as possible without spreading
it farther. I acquit Edward of essential misconduct.
I wish him very happy; and I am so sure of his always
doing his duty, that though now he may harbour some regret,
in the end he must become so. Lucy does not want sense,
and that is the foundation on which every thing good may
be built.--And after all, Marianne, after all that is
bewitching in the idea of a single and constant attachment,
and all that can be said of one's happiness depending
entirely on any particular person, it is not meant--it
is not fit--it is not possible that it should be so.--
Edward will marry Lucy; he will marry a woman superior
in person and understanding to half her sex; and time
and habit will teach him to forget that he ever thought
another superior to HER."--

"If such is your way of thinking," said Marianne,
"if the loss of what is most valued is so easily
to be made up by something else, your resolution,
your self-command, are, perhaps, a little less to be
wondered at.--They are brought more within my comprehension."

"I understand you.--You do not suppose that I have ever
felt much.--For four months, Marianne, I have had all this
hanging on my mind, without being at liberty to speak
of it to a single creature; knowing that it would make
you and my mother most unhappy whenever it were explained
to you, yet unable to prepare you for it in the least.--
It was told me,--it was in a manner forced on me by the
very person herself, whose prior engagement ruined all
my prospects; and told me, as I thought, with triumph.--
This person's suspicions, therefore, I have had to oppose,
by endeavouring to appear indifferent where I have been most
deeply interested;--and it has not been only once;--I have
had her hopes and exultation to listen to again and again.--
I have known myself to be divided from Edward for ever,
without hearing one circumstance that could make me less
desire the connection.--Nothing has proved him unworthy;
nor has anything declared him indifferent to me.--
I have had to contend against the unkindness of his sister,
and the insolence of his mother; and have suffered the
punishment of an attachment, without enjoying its advantages.--
And all this has been going on at a time, when, as you
know too well, it has not been my only unhappiness.--
If you can think me capable of ever feeling--surely you
may suppose that I have suffered NOW. The composure
of mind with which I have brought myself at present
to consider the matter, the consolation that I have been
willing to admit, have been the effect of constant and
painful exertion;--they did not spring up of themselves;--
they did not occur to relieve my spirits at first.--
No, Marianne.--THEN, if I had not been bound to silence,
perhaps nothing could have kept me entirely--not even what I
owed to my dearest friends--from openly shewing that I was
VERY unhappy."--

Marianne was quite subdued.--

"Oh! Elinor," she cried, "you have made me hate
myself for ever.--How barbarous have I been to you!--
you, who have been my only comfort, who have borne with me
in all my misery, who have seemed to be only suffering
for me!--Is this my gratitude?--Is this the only return I
can make you?--Because your merit cries out upon myself,
I have been trying to do it away."

The tenderest caresses followed this confession.
In such a frame of mind as she was now in, Elinor had
no difficulty in obtaining from her whatever promise
she required; and at her request, Marianne engaged
never to speak of the affair to any one with the least
appearance of bitterness;--to meet Lucy without betraying
the smallest increase of dislike to her;--and even to see
Edward himself, if chance should bring them together,
without any diminution of her usual cordiality.--
These were great concessions;--but where Marianne felt
that she had injured, no reparation could be too much
for her to make.

She performed her promise of being discreet,
to admiration.--She attended to all that Mrs. Jennings
had to say upon the subject, with an unchanging complexion,
dissented from her in nothing, and was heard three
times to say, "Yes, ma'am."--She listened to her praise
of Lucy with only moving from one chair to another,
and when Mrs. Jennings talked of Edward's affection,
it cost her only a spasm in her throat.--Such advances
towards heroism in her sister, made Elinor feel equal
to any thing herself.

The next morning brought a farther trial of it,
in a visit from their brother, who came with a most serious
aspect to talk over the dreadful affair, and bring them
news of his wife.

"You have heard, I suppose," said he with great solemnity,
as soon as he was seated, "of the very shocking discovery
that took place under our roof yesterday."

They all looked their assent; it seemed too awful
a moment for speech.

"Your sister," he continued, "has suffered dreadfully.
Mrs. Ferrars too--in short it has been a scene of such
complicated distress--but I will hope that the storm may
be weathered without our being any of us quite overcome.
Poor Fanny! she was in hysterics all yesterday.
But I would not alarm you too much. Donavan says there
is nothing materially to be apprehended; her constitution
is a good one, and her resolution equal to any thing.
She has borne it all, with the fortitude of an angel!
She says she never shall think well of anybody again;
and one cannot wonder at it, after being so deceived!--
meeting with such ingratitude, where so much kindness
had been shewn, so much confidence had been placed! It
was quite out of the benevolence of her heart, that she
had asked these young women to her house; merely because
she thought they deserved some attention, were harmless,
well-behaved girls, and would be pleasant companions;
for otherwise we both wished very much to have invited you
and Marianne to be with us, while your kind friend there,
was attending her daughter. And now to be so rewarded!
'I wish, with all my heart,' says poor Fanny in her
affectionate way, 'that we had asked your sisters instead
of them.'"

Here he stopped to be thanked; which being done,
he went on.

"What poor Mrs. Ferrars suffered, when first Fanny
broke it to her, is not to be described. While she with
the truest affection had been planning a most eligible
connection for him, was it to be supposed that he could
be all the time secretly engaged to another person!--such
a suspicion could never have entered her head! If she
suspected ANY prepossession elsewhere, it could not be
in THAT quarter. 'THERE, to be sure,' said she, 'I might
have thought myself safe.' She was quite in an agony.
We consulted together, however, as to what should be done,
and at last she determined to send for Edward.
He came. But I am sorry to relate what ensued.
All that Mrs. Ferrars could say to make him put an end
to the engagement, assisted too as you may well suppose
by my arguments, and Fanny's entreaties, was of
no avail. Duty, affection, every thing was disregarded.
I never thought Edward so stubborn, so unfeeling before.
His mother explained to him her liberal designs, in case
of his marrying Miss Morton; told him she would settle on
him the Norfolk estate, which, clear of land-tax, brings
in a good thousand a-year; offered even, when matters
grew desperate, to make it twelve hundred; and in opposition
to this, if he still persisted in this low connection,
represented to him the certain penury that must attend
the match. His own two thousand pounds she protested
should be his all; she would never see him again; and so far
would she be from affording him the smallest assistance,
that if he were to enter into any profession with a view
of better support, she would do all in her power to prevent
him advancing in it."

Here Marianne, in an ecstasy of indignation,
clapped her hands together, and cried, "Gracious God!
can this be possible!"

"Well may you wonder, Marianne," replied her brother,
"at the obstinacy which could resist such arguments as these.
Your exclamation is very natural."

Marianne was going to retort, but she remembered
her promises, and forbore.

"All this, however," he continued, "was urged in vain.
Edward said very little; but what he did say, was in
the most determined manner. Nothing should prevail on
him to give up his engagement. He would stand to it,
cost him what it might."

"Then," cried Mrs. Jennings with blunt sincerity,
no longer able to be silent, "he has acted like an honest
man! I beg your pardon, Mr. Dashwood, but if he had
done otherwise, I should have thought him a rascal.
I have some little concern in the business, as well
as yourself, for Lucy Steele is my cousin, and I believe
there is not a better kind of girl in the world, nor one
who more deserves a good husband."

John Dashwood was greatly astonished; but his nature
was calm, not open to provocation, and he never wished
to offend anybody, especially anybody of good fortune.
He therefore replied, without any resentment,

"I would by no means speak disrespectfully of any
relation of yours, madam. Miss Lucy Steele is, I dare say,
a very deserving young woman, but in the present case
you know, the connection must be impossible.
And to have entered into a secret engagement with a
young man under her uncle's care, the son of a woman
especially of such very large fortune as Mrs. Ferrars,
is perhaps, altogether a little extraordinary. In short,
I do not mean to reflect upon the behaviour of any person
whom you have a regard for, Mrs. Jennings. We all wish
her extremely happy; and Mrs. Ferrars's conduct throughout
the whole, has been such as every conscientious, good mother,
in like circumstances, would adopt. It has been dignified
and liberal. Edward has drawn his own lot, and I fear
it will be a bad one."

Marianne sighed out her similar apprehension;
and Elinor's heart wrung for the feelings of Edward,
while braving his mother's threats, for a woman who could
not reward him.

"Well, sir," said Mrs. Jennings, "and how did it end?"

"I am sorry to say, ma'am, in a most unhappy rupture:--
Edward is dismissed for ever from his mother's notice.
He left her house yesterday, but where he is gone, or whether
he is still in town, I do not know; for WE of course can
make no inquiry."

"Poor young man!--and what is to become of him?"

"What, indeed, ma'am! It is a melancholy consideration.
Born to the prospect of such affluence! I cannot conceive
a situation more deplorable. The interest of two thousand
pounds--how can a man live on it?--and when to that is added
the recollection, that he might, but for his own folly,
within three months have been in the receipt of two
thousand, five hundred a-year (for Miss Morton has
thirty thousand pounds,) I cannot picture to myself
a more wretched condition. We must all feel for him;
and the more so, because it is totally out of our power
to assist him."

"Poor young man!" cried Mrs. Jennings, "I am sure
he should be very welcome to bed and board at my house;
and so I would tell him if I could see him. It is not fit
that he should be living about at his own charge now,
at lodgings and taverns."

Elinor's heart thanked her for such kindness towards Edward,
though she could not forbear smiling at the form of it.

"If he would only have done as well by himself,"
said John Dashwood, "as all his friends were disposed to do
by him, he might now have been in his proper situation,
and would have wanted for nothing. But as it is, it must
be out of anybody's power to assist him. And there is one
thing more preparing against him, which must be worse than
all--his mother has determined, with a very natural kind
of spirit, to settle THAT estate upon Robert immediately,
which might have been Edward's, on proper conditions.
I left her this morning with her lawyer, talking over
the business."

"Well!" said Mrs. Jennings, "that is HER revenge.
Everybody has a way of their own. But I don't think mine
would be, to make one son independent, because another had
plagued me."

Marianne got up and walked about the room.

"Can anything be more galling to the spirit of a man,"
continued John, "than to see his younger brother in
possession of an estate which might have been his own?
Poor Edward! I feel for him sincerely."

A few minutes more spent in the same kind of effusion,
concluded his visit; and with repeated assurances to his
sisters that he really believed there was no material
danger in Fanny's indisposition, and that they need
not therefore be very uneasy about it, he went away;
leaving the three ladies unanimous in their sentiments
on the present occasion, as far at least as it regarded
Mrs. Ferrars's conduct, the Dashwoods', and Edward's.

Marianne's indignation burst forth as soon as he
quitted the room; and as her vehemence made reserve
impossible in Elinor, and unnecessary in Mrs. Jennings,
they all joined in a very spirited critique upon the party. _

Read next: VOLUME 3: CHAPTER 38

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