Mrs. Jennings came immediately to their room on her return, and
without waiting to have her request of admittance
answered, opened the
door and walked in with a look of real concern.
"How do you do, my dear?" said she, in a voice of great
compassion, to Marianne, who turned away her face without attempting to answer.
"How is she, Miss Dashwood? Poor thing! she looks very bad. No
wonder. Ay, it is but too true. He is to be married very soon- a
good-for-nothing fellow! I have no patience with him. Mrs. Taylor told
me of it half an hour ago, and she was told it by a particular
friend of Miss Grey herself, else I am sure I should not have believed
it; and I was almost ready to sink as it was. Well, said I, all I
can say is, that if this be true, he has used a young lady of my
acquaintance abominably ill, and I wish with all my soul his wife
may plague his heart out. And so I shall always say, my dear, you
may depend on it. I have no notion of men's going on in this way;
and if ever I meet him again, I will give him such a dressing as he
has not had this many a day. But there is one comfort, my dear Miss
Marianne- he is not the only young man in the world worth having;
and with your pretty face, you will never want admirers. Well, poor
thing! I won't disturb her any longer, for she had better have her cry
out at once, and have done with. The Parry and Sandersons luckily
are coming to-night, you know, and that will amuse her."
She then went away, walking on tiptoe out of the room, as if she
supposed her young friend's affliction could be increased by noise.
Marianne, to the surprise of her sister, determined on dining with
them. Elinor even advised her against it. But "no, she would go
down; she could bear it very well, and the bustle about her would be
less." Elinor, pleased to have her governed for a moment by such a
motive, though believing it hardly possible that she could sit out the
dinner, said no more; and adjusting her dress for her as well as she
could, while Marianne still remained on the bed, was ready to assist
her into the dining room as soon as they were summoned to it.
When there, though looking most wretchedly, she ate more, and
was calmer than her sister had expected. Had she tried to speak, or
had she been conscious of half Mrs. Jennings's well meant but
ill-judged attentions to her, this calmness could not have been
maintained; but not a syllable escaped her lips; and the abstraction
of her thoughts preserved her in ignorance of every thing that was
passing before her.
Elinor, who did justice to Mrs. Jennings's kindness, though its
effusions were often distressing, and sometimes almost ridiculous,
made her those acknowledgments, and returned her those civilities,
which her sister could not make or return for herself. Their good
friend saw that Marianne was unhappy, and felt that every thing was
due to her which might make her at all less so. She treated her,
therefore, with all the indulgent fondness of a parent towards a
favorite child on the last day of its holidays. Marianne was to have
the best place by the fire, was to be tempted to eat by every delicacy
in the house, and to be amused by the relation of all the news of
the day. Had not Elinor, in the sad countenance of her sister, seen
a check to all mirth, she could have been entertained by Mrs.
Jennings's endeavours to cure a disappointment in love, by a variety
of sweetmeats and olives, and a good fire. As soon, however, as the
consciousness of all this was forced by continual repetition on
Marianne, she could stay no longer. With a hasty exclamation of
misery, and a sign to her sister not to follow her, she directly got
up and hurried out of the room.
"Poor soul!" cried Mrs. Jennings, as soon as she was gone, "how it
grieves me to see her! And I declare if she is not gone away without
finishing her wine! And the dried cherries too! Lord! nothing seems to
do her any good. I am sure if I knew of any thing she would like, I
would send all over the town for it. Well, it is the oddest thing to
me, that a man should use such a pretty girl so ill! But when there is
plenty of money on one side, and next to none on the other, Lord bless
you! they care no more about such things!"
"The lady, then,- Miss Grey, I think you called her,- is very rich?"
"Fifty thousand pounds, my dear. Did you ever see her? a smart,
stylish girl, they say, but not handsome. I remember her aunt very
well, Biddy Henshawe; she married a very wealthy man. But the family
are all rich together. Fifty thousand pounds! and by all accounts,
it won't come before it's wanted; for they say he is all to pieces. No
wonder! dashing about with his curricle and hunters! Well, it don't
signify talking; but when a young man, be who he will, comes and makes
love to a pretty girl, and promises marriage, he has no business to
fly off from his word, only because he grows poor, and a richer girl
is ready to have him. Why don't he, in such a case, sell his horses,
let his house, turn off his servants, and make a thorough reform at
once? I warrant you, Miss Marianne would have been ready to wait
till matters came round. But that won't do now a-days; nothing in
the way of pleasure can ever be given up by the young men of this age."
"Do you know what kind of a girl Miss Grey is? Is she said to be amiable?"
"I never heard any harm of her; indeed I hardly ever heard her
mentioned; except that Mrs. Taylor did say this morning, that one
day Miss Walker hinted to her, that she believed Mr. and Mrs.
Ellison would not be sorry to have Miss Grey married, for she and Mrs.
Ellison could never agree."
"And who are the Ellisons?"
"Her guardians, my dear. But now she is of age, and may choose for
herself; and a pretty choice she has made!- What now," after pausing a
moment, "your poor sister is gone to her own room, I suppose, to
moan by herself. Is there nothing one can get to comfort her? Poor
dear, it seems quite cruel to let her be alone. Well, by-and-by we
shall have a few friends, and that will amuse her a little. What shall
we play at? She hates whist, I know; but is there no round game she cares for?"
"Dear ma'am, this kindness is quite unnecessary. Marianne, I
dare say, will not leave her room again this evening. I shall persuade
her, if I can, to go early to bed, for I am sure she wants rest."
"Ay, I believe that will be best for her. Let her name her own
supper, and go to bed. Lord! no wonder she has been looking so bad and
so cast down this last week or two, for this matter, I suppose, has
been hanging over her head as long as that. And so the letter that
came to-day finished it! Poor soul! I am sure if I had had a notion of
it, I would not have joked her about it for all my money. But then,
you know, how should I guess such a thing? I made sure of its being
nothing but a common love letter, and you know young people like to be
laughed at about them. Lord! how concerned Sir John and my daughters
will be when they hear it! If I had my senses about me I might have
called in Conduit Street in my way home, and told them of it. But I
shall see them to-morrow."
"It would be unnecessary, I am sure, for you to caution Mrs.
Palmer and Sir John against ever naming Mr. Willoughby, or making
the slightest allusion to what has passed, before my sister. Their own
good-nature must point out to them the real cruelty of appearing to
know any thing about it when she is present; and the less that may
ever be said to myself on the subject, the more my feelings will be
spared, as you, my dear madam, will easily believe."
"Oh, Lord! yes, that I do indeed. It must be terrible for you to
hear it talked of; and as for your sister, I am sure I would not
mention a word about it to her for the world. You saw I did not all
dinner time. No more would Sir John, nor my daughters, for they are
all very thoughtful and considerate, especially if I give them a hint,
as I certainly will. For my part, I think the less that is said
about such things the better, the sooner 'tis blown over and forgot.
And what does talking ever do, you know?"
"In this affair it can only do harm; more so, perhaps, than in
many cases of a similar kind; for it has been attended by
circumstances, which, for the sake of every one concerned in it,
make it unfit to become the public conversation. I must do this
justice to Mr. Willoughby- he has broken no positive engagement with my sister."
"Law, my dear! Don't pretend to defend him. No positive engagement
indeed! after taking her all over Allenham House, and fixing on the
very rooms they were to live in hereafter!"
Elinor, for her sister's sake, could not press the subject
farther, and she hoped it was not required of her for Willoughby's;
since, though Marianne might lose much, he could gain very little by
the enforcement of the real truth. After a short silence on both
sides, Mrs. Jennings, with all her natural hilarity, burst forth again.
"Well, my dear, 'tis a true saying about an ill-wind, for it
will be all the better for Colonel Brandon. He will have her at
last; ay, that he will. Mind me, now, if they ain't married by
Midsummer. Lord! how he'll chuckle over this news! I hope he will come
to-night. It will be all to one a better match for your sister. Two
thousand a year, without debt or drawback- except the little
love-child, indeed; ay, I had forgot her; but she may be 'prenticed
out at a small cost, and then what does it signify? Delaford is a nice
place, I can tell you; exactly what I call a nice old fashioned place,
full of comforts and conveniences; quite shut in with great garden
walls that are covered with the best fruit-trees in the country; and
such a mulberry tree in one corner! Lord! how Charlotte and I did
stuff the only time we were there! Then, there is a dovecote, some
delightful stew-ponds, and a very pretty canal; and everything, in
short, that one could wish for; and, moreover, it is close to the
church, and only a quarter of a mile from the turnpike-road, so 'tis
never dull, for if you only go and sit up in an old yew arbour
behind the house, you may see all the carriages that pass along. Oh,
'tis a nice place! A butcher hard by in the village, and the
parsonage-house within a stone's throw. To my fancy, a thousand
times prettier than Barton Park, where they are forced to send three
miles for their meat, and have not a neighbor nearer than your mother.
Well, I shall spirit up the Colonel as soon as I can. One shoulder
of mutton, you know, drives another down. If we can but put Willoughby
out of her head!"
"Ay, if we can do that, ma'am," said Elinor, "we shall do very
well with or without Colonel Brandon." And then rising, she went
away to join Marianne, whom she found, as she expected, in her own
room, leaning, in silent misery, over the small remains of a fire,
which, till Elinor's entrance, had been her only light.
"You had better leave me," was all the notice that her sister
received from her.
"I will leave you," said Elinor, "if you will go to bed." But
this, from the momentary perverseness of impatient suffering, she at
first refused to do. Her sister's earnest, though gentle persuasion,
however, soon softened her to compliance; and Elinor saw her lay her
aching head on the pillow, and as she hoped, in a way to get some
quiet rest before she left her.
In the drawing-room, whither she then repaired, she was soon
joined by Mrs. Jennings, with a wine-glass, full of something, inher hand.
"My dear," said she, entering, "I have just recollected that I
have some of the finest old Constantia wine in the house that ever was
tasted, so I have brought a glass of it for your sister. My poor
husband! how fond he was of it! Whenever he had a touch of his old
colicky gout, he said it did him more good than any thing else in the
world. Do take it to your sister."
"Dear ma'am," replied Elinor, smiling at the difference of the
complaints for which it was recommended, "how good you are! But I have
just left Marianne in bed, and, I hope, almost asleep; and as I
think nothing will be of so much service to her as rest, if you will
give me leave, I will drink the wine myself."
Mrs. Jennings, though regretting that she had not been five
minutes earlier, was satisfied with the compromise; and Elinor, as she
swallowed the chief of it, reflected, that though its effects on a
colicky gout were, at present, of little importance to her, its
healing powers, on a disappointed heart, might be as reasonably
tried on herself as on her sister.
Colonel Brandon came in while the party were at tea; and by his
manner of looking round the room for Marianne, Elinor immediately
fancied that he neither expected nor wished to see her there, and,
in short, that he was already aware of what occasioned her absence.
Mrs. Jennings was not struck by the same thought; for soon after his
entrance, she walked across the room to the tea-table where Elinor
presided, and whispered, "The Colonel looks as grave as ever, you see;
he knows nothing of it; do tell him, my dear."
He shortly afterwards drew a chair close to hers, and, with a look
which perfectly assured her of his good information, enquired after her sister.
"Marianne is not well," said she. "She has been indisposed all
day, and we have persuaded her to go to bed."
"Perhaps, then," he hesitatingly replied, "what I heard this
morning may be- there may be more truth in it than I could believe
possible at first."
"What did you hear?"
"That a gentleman, whom I had reason to think- in short, that a
man, whom I knew to be engaged- but how shall I tell you? If you
know it already, as surely you must, I may be spared."
"You mean," answered Elinor, with forced calmness, "Mr.
Willoughby's marriage with Miss Grey. Yes, we do know it all. This
seems to have been a day of general elucidation, for this very morning
first unfolded it to us. Mr. Willoughby is unfathomable! Where did you hear it?"
"In a stationer's shop in Pall Mall, where I had business. Two
ladies were waiting for their carriage, and one of them was giving the
other an account of the intended match, in a voice so little
attempting concealment, that it was impossible for me not to hear all.
The name of Willoughby, John Willoughby, frequently repeated, first
caught my attention; and what followed was a positive assertion that
every thing was now finally settled respecting his marriage with
Miss Grey- it was no longer to be a secret- it would take place even
within a few weeks, with many particulars of preparations and other
matters. One thing, especially, I remember, because it served to
identify the man still more:- as soon as the ceremony was over, they
were to go to Combe Magna, his seat in Somersetshire. My astonishment!
but it would be impossible to describe what I felt. The
communicative lady I learnt, on enquiry,- for I stayed in the shop
till they were gone,- was a Mrs. Ellison, and that, as I have been
since informed, is the name of Miss Grey's guardian."
"It is. But have you likewise heard that Miss Grey has fifty
thousand pounds? In that, if in any thing, we may find an explanation."
"It may be so; but Willoughby is capable- at least I think-" He
stopped a moment; then added, in a voice which seemed to distrust
itself, "And your sister, how did she-"
"Her sufferings have been very severe. I have only to hope that
they may be proportionately short. It has been, it is a most cruel
affliction. Till yesterday, I believe, she never doubted his regard;
and even now, perhaps- but I am almost convinced that he never was
really attached to her. He has been very deceitful! and, in some
points, there seems a hardness of heart about him."
"Ah!" said Colonel Brandon, "there is, indeed! But your sister
does not- I think you said so- she does not consider quite as you do?"
"You know her disposition, and may believe how eagerly she would
still justify him if she could."
He made no answer; and soon afterwards by the removal of the
tea-things, and the arrangement of the card parties, the subject was
necessarily dropped. Mrs. Jennings, who had watched them with pleasure
while they were talking, and who expected to see the effect of Miss
Dashwood's communication, in such an instantaneous gaiety on Colonel
Brandon's side, as might have become a man in the bloom of youth, of
hope, and happiness, saw him, with amazement, remain the whole evening
more serious and thoughtful than usual.
Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 29 Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 31