Their intended excursion to Whitwell turned out very differently
from what Elinor had expected. She was prepared to be wet through,
fatigued, and frightened; but the event was still more unfortunate,
for they did not go at all.
By ten o'clock the whole party was assembled at the Park, where
they were to breakfast. The morning was rather favourable, though it
had rained all night, as the clouds were then dispersing across the
sky, and the sun frequently appeared. They were all in high spirits
and good humour, eager to be happy, and determined to submit to the
greatest inconveniences and hardships rather than be otherwise.
While they were at breakfast the letters were brought in. Among
the rest there was one for Colonel Brandon: it, looked at the
direction, changed colour, and immediately left the room.
"What is the matter with Brandon?" said Sir John. Nobody could tell.
"I hope he has had no bad news," said Lady Middleton. "It must
be something extraordinary that could make Colonel Brandon leave my
breakfast table so suddenly."
In about five minutes he returned.
"No bad news, Colonel, I hope?" said Mrs. Jennings, as soon as
he entered the room.
"None at all, ma'am, I thank you."
"Was it from Avignon? I hope it is not to say that your sister is worse?"
"No, ma'am. It came 'from town, and is merely a letter of business."
"But how came the hand to discompose you so much, if it was only a
letter of business? Come, come, this won't do, Colonel; so let us hear
the truth of it."
"My dear madam," said Lady Middleton, "recollect what you aresaying."
"Perhaps it is to tell you that your cousin Fanny is married?"
said Mrs. Jennings, without attending to her daughter's reproof.
"No, indeed, it is not."
"Well, then, I know who it is from, Colonel. And I hope she is well."
"Whom do you mean, ma'am?" said he, colouring a little.
"Oh! you know who I mean."
"I am particularly sorry, ma'am," said he, addressing Lady
Middleton, "that I should receive this letter to-day, for it is on
business which requires my immediate attendance in town."
"In town!" cried Mrs. Jennings. "What can you have to do in town
at this time of year?"
"My own loss is great," be continued, "in being obliged to leave
so agreeable a party; but I am the more concerned, as I fear my
presence is necessary to gain your admittance at Whitwell."
What a blow upon them all was this!
"But if you write a note to the housekeeper, Mr. Brandon," said
Marianne, eagerly, "will it not be sufficient?" He shook his head.
"We must go," said Sir John. "It shall not be put off when we
are so near it. You cannot go to town till to-morrow, Brandon, that is all."
"I wish it could be so easily settled. But it is not in my power
to delay my journey for one day!"
"If you would but let us know what your business is," said Mrs.
Jennings, "we might see whether it could be put off or not."
"You would not be six hours later," said Willoughby, "if you
were to defer your journey till our return."
"I cannot afford to lose one hour."
Elinor then heard Willoughby say, in a low voice to Marianne,
"there are some people who cannot bear a party of pleasure. Brandon is
one of them. He was afraid of catching cold, I dare say, and
invented this trick for getting out of it. I would lay fifty guineas
the letter was of his own writing."
"I have no doubt of it," replied Marianne.
"There is no persuading you to change your mind, Brandon, I know
of old," said Sir John, "when once you are determined on anything.
But, however, I hope you will think better of it. Consider: here are
the two Miss Careys come over from Newton, the three Misses Dashwood
walked up from the cottage, and Mr. Willoughby got up two hours before
his usual time, on purpose to go to Whitwell."
Colonel Brandon again repeated his sorrow at being the cause of
disappointing the party; but at the same time declared it to beunavoidable.
"Well, then, when will you come back again?"
"I hope we shall see you at Barton," added her ladyship, "as
soon as you can conveniently leave town; and we must put off the party
to Whitwell till you return."
"You are very obliging. But it is so uncertain when I may have
it in my power to return that I dare not engage for it at all."
"Oh! he must and shall come back," cried Sir John. "If he is not
here by the end of the week, I shall go after him."
"Ay, so do, Sir John," cried Mrs. Jennings, "and then perhaps
you may find out what his business is."
"I do not want to pry into other men's concerns. I suppose it is
something he is ashamed of." Colonel Brandon's horses were announced.
"You do not go to town on horseback, do you?" added Sir John.
"No. Only to Honiton. I shall then go post."
"Well, as you are resolved to go, I wish you a good journey. But
you had better change your mind."
"I assure you it is not in my power."
He then took leave of the whole party.
"Is there no chance of my seeing you and your sisters in town this
winter, Miss Dashwood?"
"I am afraid, none at all."
"Then I must bid you farewell for a longer time than I should wish to do."
To Marianne, he merely bowed and said nothing.
"Come Colonel," said Mrs. Jennings, "before you go, do let us know
what you are going about."
He wished her a good morning, and, attended by Sir John, left the room.
The complaints and lamentations which politeness had hitherto
restrained now burst forth universally; and they all agreed again
and again how provoking it was to be so disappointed.
"I can guess what his business is, however," said Mrs. Jennings exultingly
"Can you, ma'am?" said almost every body.
"Yes: it is about Miss Williams, I am sure."
"And who is Miss Williams?" asked Marianne.
"What! do not you know who Miss Williams is? I am sure you must
have heard of her before. She is a relation of the Colonel's, my dear;
a very near relation. We will not say how near, for fear of shocking
the young ladies." Then, lowering her voice a little, she said to
Elinor, "She is his natural daughter."
"Oh, yes; and as like him as she can stare. I dare say the Colonel
will leave her all his fortune."
When Sir John returned, he joined most heartily in the general
regret on so unfortunate an event; concluding, however, by
observing, that as they were all got together, they must do
something by way of being happy; and after some consultation it was
agreed, that although happiness could only be enjoyed at Whitwell,
they might procure a tolerable composure of mind by driving about
the country. The carriages were then ordered; Willoughby's was
first, and Marianne never looked happier than when she got into it. He
drove through the park very fast, and they were soon out of sight; and
nothing more of them was seen till their return, which did not
happen till after the return of all the rest. They both seemed
delighted with their drive; but said only in general terms that they
had kept in the lanes, while the others went on the downs.
It was settled that there should be a dance in the evening, and
that every body should be extremely merry all day long. Some more of
the Careys came to dinner; and they had the pleasure of sitting down
nearly twenty to table, which Sir John observed with great
contentment. Willoughby took his usual place between the two elder
Misses Dashwood. Mrs. Jennings sat on Elinor's right-hand; and they
had not been long seated, before she lent behind her and Willoughby,
and said to Marianne, loud enough for them both to hear, "I have found
you out in spite of all your tricks. I know where you spent the morning."
Marianne coloured, and replied very hastily, "Where, pray."
"Did not you know," said Willoughby, "that we had been out in my curricle?"
"Yes, yes, Mr. Impudence, I know that very well, and I was
determined to find out where you had been to. I hope you like your
house, Miss Marianne. It is a very large one, I know; and when I
come to see you, I hope you will have new-furnished it, for it
wanted it very much when I was there six years ago."
Marianne turned away in great confusion. Mrs. Jennings laughed
heartily; and Elinor found that in her resolution to know where they
had been, she had actually made her own woman enquire of Mr.
Willoughby's groom; and that she had by that method been informed that
they had gone to Allenham, and spent a considerable time there in
walking about the garden, and going all over the house.
Elinor could hardly believe this to be true; as it seemed very
unlikely that Willoughby should propose, or Marianne consent, to enter
the house while Mrs. Smith was in it, with whom Marianne had not the
As soon as they left the dining-room, Elinor enquired of her about
it; and great was her surprise when she found that every
circumstance related by Mrs. Jennings was perfectly true. Marianne was
quite angry with her for doubting it.
"Why should you imagine, Elinor, that we did not go there, or that
we did not see the house? Is not it what you have often wished to do yourself?"
"Yes, Marianne, but I would not go while Mrs. Smith was there, and
with no other companion than Mr. Willoughby."
"Mr. Willoughby, however, is the only person who can have a
right to show that house; and as he went in an open carriage, it was
impossible to have any other companion. I never spent a pleasanter
morning in my life."
"I am afraid," replied Elinor, "that the pleasantness of an
employment does not always evince its propriety."
"On the contrary, nothing can be a stronger proof of it, Elinor;
for if there had been any real impropriety in what I did, I should
have been sensible of it at the time, for we always know when we are
acting wrong, and with such a conviction I could have had no pleasure."
"But, my dear Marianne, as it has already exposed you to some very
impertinent remarks, do you not now begin to doubt the discretion of
your own conduct?"
"If the impertinent remarks of Mrs. Jennings are to be the proof
of impropriety in conduct, we are all offending every moment of our
lives. I value not her censure any more than I should do her
commendation. I am not sensible of having done anything wrong in
walking over Mrs. Smith's grounds, or in seeing her house. They will
one day be Mr. Willoughby's, and-"
"If they were one day to be your own, Marianne, you would not be
justified in what you have done."
She blushed at this hint; but it was even visibly gratifying to
her; and after a ten minutes' interval of earnest thought, she came to
her sister again, and said with great good humour, "Perhaps, Elinor,
it was rather ill-judged in me to go to Allenham; but Mr. Willoughby
wanted particularly to show me the place; and it is a charming
house, I assure you. There is one remarkably pretty sitting room up
stairs; of a nice comfortable size for constant use, and with modern
furniture it would be delightful. It is a corner room, and has windows
on two sides. On one side you look across the bowling-green, behind
the house, to a beautiful hanging wood, and on the other you have a
view of the church and village, and, beyond them, of those fine bold
hills that we have so often admired. I did not see it to advantage,
for nothing could be more forlorn than the furniture; but if it were
newly fitted up- a couple of hundred pounds, Willoughby says, would
make it one of the pleasantest summer-rooms in England."
Could Elinor have listened to her without interruption from the
others, she would have described every room in the house with equal delight.
Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 12 Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 14