Elinor could not find herself in the carriage with Mrs.
Jennings, and beginning a journey to London
under her protection,
and as her guest, without wondering at her own situation, so short had
their acquaintance with that lady been, so wholly unsuited were they
in age and disposition, and so many had been her objections against
such a measure only a few days before! But these objections had all,
with that happy ardour of youth which Marianne and her mother
equally shared, been overcome or overlooked; and Elinor, in spite of
every occasional doubt of Willoughby's constancy
, could not witness
the rapture of delightful expectation which filled the whole soul
and beamed in the eyes of Marianne, without feeling how blank was
her own prospect, how cheerless her own state of mind in the
comparison, and how gladly she would engage in the solicitude of
Marianne's situation to have the same animating object in view, the
same possibility of hope. A short, a very short time, however, must
now decide what Willoughby's intentions were; in all probability he
was already in town. Marianne's eagerness to be gone declared her
dependence on finding him there; and Elinor was resolved not only upon
gaining every new light as to his character which her own observation,
or the intelligence of others could give her, but likewise upon
watching his behaviour to her sister with such zealous
what he was, and what he meant, before many meetings
had taken place. Should the result of her observations be
unfavourable, she was determined, at all events, to open the eyes of
her sister; should it be otherwise, her exertions would be of a
different nature;- she must then learn to avoid every selfish
comparison, and banish every regret which might lessen her
satisfaction in the happiness of Marianne.
They were three days on their journey, and Marianne's behaviour,
as they travelled, was a happy specimen of what future complaisance
and companionableness to Mrs. Jennings might be expected to be. She
sat in silence almost all the way, wrapt in her own meditations, and
scarcely ever voluntarily speaking, except when any object of
picturesque beauty within their view drew from her an exclamation of
delight exclusively addressed to her sister. To atone for this
conduct, therefore, Elinor took immediate possession of the post of
civility which she had assigned herself, behaved with the greatest
attention to Mrs. Jennings, talked with her, laughed with her, and
listened to her whenever she could; and Mrs. Jennings, on her side,
treated them both with all possible kindness, was solicitous on
every occasion for their ease and enjoyment, and only disturbed that
she could not make them choose their own dinners at the inn, nor
extort a confession of their preferring salmon to cod, or boiled fowls
to veal cutlets. They reached town by three o'clock the third day,
glad to be released, after such a journey, from the confinement of a
carriage, and ready to enjoy all the luxury of a good fire.
The house was handsome, and handsomely fitted up; and the young
ladies were immediately put in possession of a very comfortable
apartment. It had formerly been Charlotte's; and over the mantel piece
still hung a landscape in coloured silks of her performance, in
proof of her having spent seven years at a great school in town to some effect.
As dinner was not to be ready in less than two hours from their
arrival, Elinor determined to employ the interval in writing to her
mother, and sat down for that purpose. In a few moments Marianne did
the same. "I am writing home, Marianne," said Elinor; "had not you
better defer your letter for a day or two?"
"I am not going to write to my mother," replied Marianne, hastily,
and as if wishing to avoid any farther enquiry. Elinor said no more;
it immediately struck her that she must then be writing to Willoughby;
and the conclusion which as instantly followed was, that, however
mysteriously they might wish to conduct the affair, they must be
engaged. This conviction, though not entirely satisfactory, gave her
pleasure, and she continued her letter with greater alacrity.
Marianne's was finished in a very few minutes; in length it could be
no more than a note; it was then folded up, sealed, and directed
with eager rapidity. Elinor thought she could distinguish a large W in
the direction; and no sooner was it complete than Marianne, ringing
the bell, requested the footman who answered it to get that letter
conveyed for her to the two-penny post. This decided the matter at once.
Her spirits still continued very high; but there was a flutter
in them which prevented their giving much pleasure to her sister,
and this agitation increased as the evening drew on. She could
scarcely eat any dinner; and when they afterwards returned to the
drawing-room, seemed anxiously listening to the sound of every carriage.
It was a great satisfaction to Elinor that Mrs. Jennings, by being
much engaged in her own room, could see little of what was passing.
The tea-things were brought in, and already had Marianne been
disappointed more than once by a rap at a neighbouring door, when a
loud one was suddenly heard which could not be mistaken for one at any
other house. Elinor felt secure of its announcing Willoughby's
approach, and Marianne, starting up, moved towards the door. Every
thing was silent: this could not be borne many seconds; she opened the
door, advanced a few steps towards the stairs, and after listening
half a minute, returned into the room in all the agitation which a
conviction of having heard him would naturally produce: in the ecstasy
of her feelings at that instant she could not help exclaiming, "Oh,
Elinor, it is Willoughby, indeed it is!" and seemed almost ready to
throw herself into his arms, when Colonel Brandon appeared.
It was too great a shock to be borne with calmness; and she
immediately left the room. Elinor was disappointed too; but at the
same time her regard for Colonel Brandon ensured his welcome with her;
and she felt particularly hurt that a man so partial to her sister
should perceive that she experienced nothing but grief and
disappointment in seeing him. She instantly saw that it was not
unnoticed by him; that he even observed Marianne, as she quitted the
room, with such astonishment and concern, as hardly left him the
recollection of what civility demanded towards herself.
"Is your sister ill?" said he.
Elinor answered in some distress that she was; and then talked
of headaches, low spirits, and over fatigues; and of everything to
which she could decently attribute her sister's behaviour.
He heard her with the most earnest attention; but seeming to
recollect himself, said no more on the subject, and began directly
to speak of his pleasure at seeing them in London, making the usual
enquiries about their journey, and the friends they had left behind.
In this calm kind of way, with very little interest on either
side, they continued to talk; both of them out of spirits, and the
thoughts of both engaged elsewhere. Elinor wished very much to ask
whether Willoughby were then in town, but she was afraid of giving him
pain by any enquiry after his rival; and at length, by way of saying
something, she asked if he had been in London ever since she had
seen him last. "Yes," he replied, with some embarrassment, "almost
ever since; I have been once or twice at Delaford for a few days,
but it has never been in my power to return to Barton."
This, and the manner in which it was said, immediately brought
back to her remembrance all the circumstances of his quitting that
place, with the uneasiness and suspicions they had caused to Mrs.
Jennings; and she was fearful that her question had implied much
more curiosity on the subject than she had ever felt.
Mrs. Jennings soon came in. "Oh, Colonel," said she, with her
usual noisy cheerfulness, "I am monstrous glad to see you- sorry I
could not come before- beg your pardon- but I have been forced to look
about me a little, and settle my matters; for it is a long while since
I have been at home, and you know one has always a world of little odd
things to do after one has been away for any time; and then I have had
Cartwright to settle with. Lord! I have been as busy as a bee ever
since dinner. But pray, Colonel, how came you to conjure out that I
should be in town to-day?"
"I had the pleasure of hearing it at Mr. Palmer's, where I have been dining."
"Oh, you did; well, and how do they all do at their house? How
does Charlotte do? I warrant you she is a fine size by this time."
"Mrs. Palmer appeared quite well; and I am commissioned to tell
you, that you will certainly see her to-morrow."
"Ay, to be sure, I thought as much. Well, Colonel, I have
brought two young ladies with me, you see- that is, you see but one of
them now, but there is another somewhere. Your friend, Miss
Marianne, too- which you will not be sorry to hear. I do not know what
you and Mr. Willoughby will do between you about her. Ay, it is a fine
thing to be young and handsome. Well, I was young once, but I never
was very handsome- worse luck for me. However, I got a very good
husband, and I don't know what the greatest beauty can do more. Ah,
poor man! he has been dead these eight years and better. But, Colonel,
where have you been to since we parted. And how does your business
go on? Come, come, let's have no secrets among friends."
He replied with his accustomary mildness to all her enquiries, but
without satisfying her in any. Elinor now began to make the tea, and
Marianne was obliged to appear again.
After her entrance, Colonel Brandon became more thoughtful and
silent than he had been before, and Mrs. Jennings could not prevail on
him to stay long. No other visitor appeared that evening, and the
ladies were unanimous in agreeing to go early to bed.
Marianne rose the next morning with recovered spirits and happy
looks. The disappointment of the evening before seemed forgotten in
the expectation of what was to happen that day. They had not long
finished their breakfast before Mrs. Palmer's barouche stopped at
the door, and in a few minutes she came laughing into the room: so
delighted to see them all, that it was hard to say whether she
received most pleasure from meeting her mother or the Misses
Dashwood again. So surprised at their coming to town, though it was
what she had rather expected all along; so angry at their accepting
her mother's invitation after having declined her own, though at the
same time she would never have forgiven them if they had not come!
"Mr. Palmer will be so happy to see you," said she:- "What do
you think he said when he heard of your coming with mamma? I forget
what it was now, but it was something so droll!"
After an hour or two spent in what her mother called comfortable
chat, or in other words, in every variety of enquiry concerning all
their acquaintance on Mrs. Jennings's side, and in laughter without
cause on Mrs. Palmer's, it was proposed by the latter that they should
all accompany her to some shops where she had business that morning,
to which Mrs. Jennings and Elinor readily consented, as having
likewise some purchases to make themselves; and Marianne, though
declining it at first, was induced to go likewise.
Wherever they went, she was evidently always on the watch. In Bond
Street especially, where much of their business lay, her eyes were
in constant enquiry; and in whatever shop the party were engaged,
her mind was equally abstracted from everything actually before
them, from all that interested and occupied the others. Restless and
dissatisfied every where, her sister could never obtain her opinion of
any article of purchase, however it might equally concern them both:
she received no pleasure from anything; was only impatient to be at
home again, and could with difficulty govern her vexation at the
tediousness of Mrs. Palmer, whose eye was caught by everything pretty,
expensive, or new; who was wild to buy all, could determined on
none, and dawdled away her time in rapture and indecision.
It was late in the morning before they returned home; and no
sooner had they entered the house than Marianne flew eagerly up
stairs; and when Elinor followed, she found her turning from the table
with a sorrowful countenance, which declared that no Willoughby hadbeen there.
"Has no letter been left here for me since we went out?" said
she to the footman, who then entered with the parcels. She was
answered in the negative. "Are you quite sure of it?" she replied.
"Are you certain that no servant, no porter has left any letter or note?"
The man replied that none had.
"How very odd!" said she, in a low and disappointed voice, as
she turned away to the window.
"How odd, indeed!" repeated Elinor within herself, regarding her
sister with uneasiness. "If she had not known him to be in town, she
would not have written to him, as she did; she would have written to
Combe Magna; and, if he is in town, how odd that he should neither
come nor write! Oh, my dear mother, you must be wrong in permitting an
engagement between a daughter so young, a man so little known, to be
carried on in so doubtful, so mysterious a manner! I long to
enquire; and how will my interference be borne."
She determined, after some consideration, that if appearances
continued many days longer as unpleasant as they now were, she would
represent in the strongest manner to her mother the necessity of
some serious enquiry into the affair.
Mrs. Palmer and two elderly ladies of Mrs. Jennings's intimate
acquaintance, whom she had met and invited in the morning, dined
with them. The former left them soon after tea to fulfill her
evening engagements; and Elinor was obliged to assist in making a
whist table for the others. Marianne was of no use on these occasions,
as she would never learn the game; but though her time was therefore
at her own disposal, the evening was by no means more productive of
pleasure to her than to Elinor, for it was spent in all the anxiety of
expectation and the pain of disappointment. She sometimes
endeavoured for a few minutes to read; but the book was soon thrown
aside; and she returned to the more interesting employment of
walking backwards and forwards across the room, pausing for a moment
whenever she came to the window, in hopes of distinguishing the long
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