Little had Mrs. Dashwood or her daughters imagined, when they
first came into Devonshire
, that so many engagements would arise to
occupy their time as shortly presented themselves, or that they should
have such frequent invitations and such constant visitors as to
leave them little leisure
for serious employment. Yet such was the
case. When Marianne was recovered, the schemes of amusement at home
and abroad, which Sir John had been previously forming, were put
into execution. The private ball
s at the Park then began and parties
on the water were made and accomplished as often as a showery
would allow. In every meeting of the kind Willoughby was
included; and the ease and familiarity which naturally attended
these parties were exactly calculated to give increasing intimacy to
his acquaintance with the Dashwoods, to afford him opportunity of
witnessing the excellencies
of Marianne, of marking his animated
admiration of her, and of receiving, in her behaviour to himself,
the most pointed assurance of her affection.
Elinor could not be surprised at their attachment. She only wished
that it were less openly shown; and once or twice did venture to
suggest the propriety of some self-command to Marianne. But Marianne
abhorred all concealment where no real disgrace could attend
unreserve; and to aim at the restraint of sentiments which were not in
themselves illaudable, appeared to her not merely an unnecessary
effort, but a disgraceful subjection of reason to common-place and
mistaken notions. Willoughby thought the same; and their behaviour
at all times, was an illustration of their opinions.
When he was present she had no eyes for any one else. Every
thing he did was right. Every thing he said was clever. If their
evenings at the Park were concluded with cards, he cheated himself and
all the rest of the party to get her a good hand. If dancing formed
the amusement of the night, they were partners for half the time;
and when obliged to separate for a couple of dances, were careful to
stand together, and scarcely spoke a word to any body else. Such
conduct made them, of course, most exceedingly laughed at; but
ridicule could not shame, and seemed hardly to provoke them.
Mrs. Dashwood entered into all their feelings with a warmth
which left her no inclination for checking this excessive display of
them. To her it was but the natural consequence of a strong
affection in a young and ardent mind.
This was the season of happiness to Marianne. Her heart was
devoted to Willoughby; and the fond attachment to Norland, which she
brought with her from Sussex, was more likely to be softened than
she had thought it possible before by the charms which his society
bestowed on her present home.
Elinor's happiness was not so great. Her heart was not so much
at ease, nor her satisfaction in their amusements so pure. They
afforded her no companion that could make amends for what she had left
behind, nor that could teach her to think of Norland with less
regret than ever. Neither Lady Middleton nor Mrs. Jennings could
supply to her the conversation she missed; although the latter was
an everlasting talker, and from the first had regarded her with a
kindness which ensured her a large share of her discourse. She had
already repeated her own history to Elinor three or four times! and
had Elinor's memory been equal to her means of improvement, she
might have known, very early in her acquaintance, all the
particulars of Mr. Jenning's last illness, and what he said to his
wife a few minutes before he died. Lady Middleton was more agreeable
than her mother only in being more silent. Elinor needed little
observation to perceive that her reserve was a mere calmness of
manner, with which sense had nothing to do. Towards her husband and
mother she was the same as to them; and intimacy was, therefore,
neither to be looked for nor desired. She had nothing to say one day
that she had not said the day before. Her insipidity was invariable,
for even her spirits were always the same; and though she did not
oppose the parties arranged by her husband, provided everything were
conducted in style, and her two eldest children attended her, she
never appeared to receive more enjoyment from them than she might have
experienced in sitting at home; and so little did her presence add
to the pleasure of the others, by any share in their conversation,
that they were sometimes only reminded of her being amongst them by
her solicitude about her troublesome boys.
In Colonel Brandon alone, of all her new acquaintance, did
Elinor find a person who could, in any degree, claim the respect of
abilities, excite the interest of friendship, or give pleasure as a
companion. Willoughby was out of the question. Her admiration and
regard, even her sisterly regard, was all his own; but he was a lover;
his attentions were wholly Marianne's, and a far less agreeable man
might have been more generally pleasing. Colonel Brandon,
unfortunately for himself, had no such encouragement to think only
of Marianne, and in conversing with Elinor he found consolation for
the indifference of her sister.
Elinor's compassion for him increased, as she had reason to
suspect that the misery of disappointed love had already been known to
him. This suspicion was given by some words which accidently dropped
from him one evening at the Park, when they were sitting down together
by mutual consent, while the others were dancing. His eyes were
fixed on Marianne, and, after a silence of some minutes, he said, with
a faint smile, "Your sister, I understand, does not approve of
"No," replied Elinor, "her opinions are all romantic."
"Or rather, as I believe, she considers them impossible to exist."
"I believe she does. But how she contrives it without reflecting
on the character of her own father, who had himself two wives, I
know not. A few years, however, will settle her opinions on the
reasonable basis of common sense and observation; and then they may be
more easy to define and to justify than they now are, by any body but herself."
"This will probably be the case," he replied; "and yet there is
something so amiable in the prejudices of a young mind, that one is
sorry to see them give way to the reception of more general opinions."
"I cannot agree with you there," said Elinor. "There are
inconveniences attending such feelings, as Marianne's, which all the
charms of enthusiasm and ignorance of the world cannot atone for.
Her systems have all the unfortunate tendency of setting propriety
at nought; and a better acquaintance with the world is what I look
forward to as her greatest possible advantage."
After a short pause he resumed the conversation by saying,-
"Does your sister make no distinction in her objections against
a second attachment? or is it equally criminal in every body? Are
those who have been disappointed in their first choice, whether from
the inconstancy of its object, or the perverseness of circumstances,
to be equally indifferent during the rest of their lives?"
"Upon my word, I am not acquainted with the minutiae of her
principles. I only know that I never yet heard her admit any
instance of a second attachment's being pardonable."
"This," said he, "cannot hold; but a change, a total change of
sentiments- No, no, do not desire it; for when the romantic refinements of a
young mind are obliged to give way, how frequently are they succeeded by such
opinions as are but too common and too dangerous! I speak from experience. I
once knew a lady who in temper and mind greatly resembled your sister, who
thought and judged like her, but who from an enforced change- from a series
of unfortunate circumstances-" Here he stopt suddenly; appeared to think that
he had said too much, and by his countenance gave rise to conjectures which
might not otherwise have entered Elinor's head. The lady would probably have
passed without suspicion had he not convinced Miss Dashwood that what
concerned her ought not to escape his lips. As it was, it required but a
slight effort of fancy to connect his emotion with the tender recollection of
past regard. Elinor attempted no more. But Marianne, in her place, would not
have done so little. The whole story would have been speedily formed under
her active imagination; and every thing established in the most melancholy
order of disastrous love.
Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 10 Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 12