Marianne would have thought herself very inexcusable
been able to sleep at all the first night after parting from
Willoughby. She would have been ashamed to look her family in the face
the next morning, had she not risen from her bed in more need of
repose than when she lay down in it. But the feelings which made
such composure a disgrace
, left her in no danger of incurring it.
She was awake the whole night, and she wept the greatest part of it.
She got up with a headache, was unable to talk, and unwilling to
take any nourishment; giving pain every moment to her mother and
sisters, and forbidding all attempt at consolation from either. Her
sensibility was potent enough!
When breakfast was over she walked out by herself, and wandered
about the village of Allenham, indulging the recollection of past
enjoyment, and crying over the present reverse for the chief of the morning.
The evening passed off in the equal indulgence of feeling. She
played over every favourite song that she had been used to play to
Willoughby, every air in which their voices had been oftenest
joined, and sat at the instrument gazing on every line of music that
he had written out for her, till her heart was so heavy that no
farther sadness could be gained; and this nourishment of grief was
every day applied. She spent whole hours at the piano-forte,
alternately singing and crying; her voice often totally suspended by
her tears. In books, too, as well as in music, she courted the
misery which a contrast between the past and present was certain of
giving. She read nothing but what they had been used to read together.
Such violence of affliction indeed could not be supported for
ever; it sunk within a few days into a calmer melancholy; but these
employments, to which she daily recurred, her solitary walks and
silent meditations, still produced occasional effusions of sorrow as
lively as ever. No letter from Willoughby came; and none seemed expected by
Marianne. Her mother was surprised, and Elinor again became uneasy.
But Mrs. Dashwood could find explanations whenever she wanted them,
which at least satisfied herself.
"Remember, Elinor," said she, "how very often Sir John fetches our
letters from the post, and carries them to it. We have already
agreed that secrecy may be necessary, and we must acknowledge that
it could not be maintained if their correspondence were to pass
through Sir John's hands."
Elinor could not deny the truth of this, and she tried to find
in it a motive sufficient for their silence. But there was one
method so direct, so simple, and in her opinion so eligible, of
knowing the real state of the affair and of instantly removing all
mystery, that she could not help suggesting it to her mother.
"Why do you not ask Marianne at once," said she, "whether she is
or she is not engaged to Willoughby? From you, her mother, and so
kind, so indulgent a mother, the question could not give offence. It
would be the natural result of your affection for her. She used to
be all unreserve, and to you more especially."
"I would not ask such a question for the world. Supposing it
possible that they are not engaged, what distress would not such an
enquiry inflict! At any rate it would be most ungenerous. I should
never deserve her confidence again, after forcing from her a
confession of what is meant at present to be unacknowledged to any
one. I know Marianne's heart: I know that she dearly loves me, and
that I shall not be the last to whom the affair is made known, when
circumstances make the revealment of it eligible. I would not
attempt to force the confidence of any one; of a child much less;
because a sense of duty would prevent the denial which her wishes might direct."
Elinor thought this generosity overstrained, considering her
sister's youth, and urged the matter farther, but in vain; common
sense, common care, common prudence, were all sunk in Mrs.
Dashwood's romantic delicacy.
It was several days before Willoughby's name was mentioned
before Marianne by any of her family; Sir John and Mrs. Jennings,
indeed, were not so nice; their witticisms added pain to many a
painful hour; but one evening, Mrs. Dashwood, accidentally taking up a
volume of Shakespeare, exclaimed,-
"We have never finished Hamlet, Marianne; our dear Willoughby went
away before we could get through it. We will put it by, that when he
comes again-; but it may be months, perhaps, before that happens."
"Months!" cried Marianne, with strong surprise. "No- nor many weeks."
Mrs. Dashwood was sorry for what she had said; but it gave
Elinor pleasure, as it produced a reply from Marianne so expressive of
confidence in Willoughby and knowledge of his intentions.
One morning, about a week after his leaving the country,
Marianne was prevailed on to join her sisters in their usual walk,
instead of wandering away by herself. Hitherto she had carefully
avoided every companion in her rambles. If her sisters intended to
walk on the downs, she directly stole away towards the lanes; if
they talked of the valley, she was as speedy in climbing the hills,
and could never be found when the others set off. But at length she
was secured by the exertions of Elinor, who greatly disapproved such
continual seclusion. They walked along the road through the valley,
and chiefly in silence, for Marianne's mind could not be controlled,
and Elinor, satisfied with gaining one point, would not then attempt
more. Beyond the entrance of the valley, where the country, though
still rich, was less wild and more open, a long stretch of the road
which they had travelled on first coming to Barton lay before them;
and on reaching that point they stopped to look around them and
examine a prospect which formed the distance of their view from the
cottage, from a spot which they had never happened to reach in any
of their walks before.
Amongst the objects in the scene, they soon discovered an animated
one; it was a man on horseback riding towards them. In a few minutes
they could distinguish him to be a gentleman; and in a moment
afterwards Marianne rapturously exclaimed,-
"It is he- it is indeed;- I know it is!" and was hastening to meet
him, when Elinor cried out,-
"Indeed, Marianne, I think you are mistaken. It is not Willoughby.
The person is not tall enough for him, and has not his air."
"He has, he has," cried Marianne, "I am sure he has. His air,
his coat, his horse. I knew how soon he would come."
She walked eagerly on as she spoke; and Elinor, to screen Marianne
from particularity, as she felt almost certain of its not being
Willoughby, quickened her pace and kept up with her. They were soon
within thirty yards of the gentleman. Marianne looked again; her heart
sunk within her; and abruptly turning round, she was hurrying back,
when the voices of both her sisters were raised to detain her; a
third, almost as well known as Willoughby's, joined them in begging
her to stop, and she turned round with surprise to see and welcome
He was the only person in the world who could at that moment be
forgiven for not being Willoughby; the only one who could have
gained a smile from her; but she dispersed her tears to smile on
him, and in her sister's happiness forgot for a time her own disappointment.
He dismounted, and giving his horse to his servant, walked back
with them to Barton, whither he was purposely coming to visit them.
He was welcomed by them all with great cordiality, but
especially by Marianne, who showed more warmth of regard in her
reception of him than even Elinor herself. To Marianne, indeed, the
meeting between Edward and her sister was but a continuation of that
unaccountable coldness which she had often observed at Norland in
their mutual behaviour. On Edward's side more particularly, there
was a deficiency of all that a lover ought to look and say on such
an occasion. He was confused, seemed scarcely sensible of pleasure
in seeing them, looked neither rapturous nor gay, said little but what
was forced from him by questions, and distinguished Elinor by no
mark of affection. Marianne saw and listened with increasing surprise.
She began almost to feel a dislike of Edward; and it ended, as every
feeling must end with her, by carrying back her thoughts to
Willoughby, whose manners formed a contrast sufficiently striking to
those of his brother elect.
After a short silence which succeeded the first surprise and
enquiries of meeting, Marianne asked Edward if he came directly from
London. No, he had been in Devonshire a fortnight.
"A fortnight!" she repeated, surprised at his being so long in the
same county with Elinor without seeing her before.
He looked rather distressed as he added, that he had been
staying with some friends near Plymouth.
"Have you been lately in Sussex?" said Elinor.
"I was at Norland about a month ago."
"And how does dear, dear Norland look?" cried Marianne.
"Dear, dear Norland," said Elinor, "probably looks much as it
always does at this time of the year. The woods and walks thickly
covered with dead leaves."
"Oh," cried Marianne, "with what transporting sensation have I
formerly seen them fall! How have I delighted, as I walked, to see
them driven in showers about me by the wind! What feelings have
they, the season, the air altogether inspired! Now there is no one
to regard them. They are seen only as a nuisance, swept hastily off,
and driven as much as possible from the sight."
"It is not every one," said Elinor, "who has your passion for dead leaves."
"No; my feelings are not often shared, not often understood. But
sometimes they are." As she said this, she sunk into a reverie for a
few moments; but rousing herself again, "Now, Edward," said she,
calling his attention to the prospect, "here is Barton Valley. Look up
it, and be tranquil if you can. Look at those hills. Did you ever
see their equals? To the left is Barton Park, amongst those woods
and plantations. You may see the end of the house. And there,
beneath that farthest hill, which rises with such grandour, is ourcottage."
"It is a beautiful country," he replied; "but these bottoms must
be dirty in winter."
"How can you think of dirt, with such objects before you?"
"Because," replied he, smiling, "among the rest of the objects
before me, I see a very dirty lane."
"How strange!" said Marianne to herself, as she walked on.
"Have you an agreeable neighbourhood here? Are the Middletons
"No, not all," answered Marianne; "we could not be more
"Marianne," cried her sister, "how can you say so? How can you
be so unjust? They are a very respectable family, Mr. Ferrars; and
towards us have behaved in the friendliest manner. Have you forgot,
Marianne, how many pleasant days we have owed to them?"
"No," said Marianne, in a low voice, "nor how many painful moments."
Elinor took no notice of this; and directing her attention to
their visitor, endeavoured to support something like discourse with
him, by talking of their present residence, its conveniences, &c.,
extorting from him occasional questions and remarks. His coldness
and reserve mortified her severely; she was vexed and half angry;
but resolving to regulate her behaviour to him by the past rather than
the present, she avoided every appearance of resentment or
displeasure, and treated him as she thought he ought to be treated
from the family connection.
Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 15 Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 17