From a night of more sleep than she had expected, Marianne awoke
the next morning to the same consciousness of misery in which she
had closed her eyes.
Elinor encouraged her as much as possible to talk of what she
felt; and before breakfast was ready they had gone through the subject
again and again; and with the same steady conviction and
affectionate counsel on Elinor's side, the same impetuous feelings and
varying opinions on Marianne's, as before. Sometimes she could believe
Willoughby to be as unfortunate and as innocent as herself, and at
others lost every consolation in the impossibility of acquitting
him. At one moment she was absolutely indifferent to the observation
of all the world, at another, she would seclude herself from it for
ever, and at a third, could resist it with energy. In one thing,
however, she was uniform, when it came to the point, in avoiding,
where it was possible, the presence of Mrs. Jennings, and in a
determined silence when obliged to endure it. Her heart was hardened
against the belief of Mrs. Jennings's entering into her sorrows with
any compassion. "No, no, no, it cannot be," she cried; "she cannot feel. Her
kindness is not sympathy; her good-nature is not tenderness. All
that she wants is gossip; and she only likes me now because I supply it."
Elinor had not needed this to be assured of the injustice to which
her sister was often led in her opinion of others, by the irritable
refinement of her own mind, and the too great importance placed by her
on the delicacies of a strong sensibility, and the graces of a
polished manner. Like half the rest of the world, if more than half
there be that are clever and good, Marianne, with excellent
abilities and an excellent disposition, was neither reasonable nor
candid. She expected from other people the same opinions and
feelings as her own, and she judged of their motives by the
immediate effect of their actions on herself. Thus a circumstance
occurred, while the sisters were together in their own room after
breakfast, which sunk the heart of Mrs. Jennings still lower in her
estimation; because, through her own weakness, it chanced to prove a
source of fresh pain to herself, though Mrs. Jennings was governed
in it by an impulse of the utmost good-will.
With a letter in her out-stretched hand, and countence gaily
smiling, from the persuasion of bringing comfort, she entered their
"Now, my dear, I bring you something that I am sure will do you good."
Marianne heard enough. In one moment her imagination placed before
her a letter from Willoughby, full of tenderness and contrition,
explanatory of all that had passed, satisfactory, convincing; and
instantly followed by Willoughby himself, rushing eagerly into the
room to enforce, at her feet, by the eloquence of his eyes, the
assurances of his letter. The work of one moment was destroyed by
the next. The hand-writing of her mother, never till then unwelcome,
was before her; and, in the acuteness of the disappointment which
followed such an ecstasy of more than hope, she felt as if, till
that instant, she had never suffered.
The cruelty of Mrs. Jennings, no language within her reach in
her moments of happiest eloquence, could have expressed; and now she
could reproach her only by the tears which streamed from her eyes with
passionate violence;- a reproach, however, so entirely lost on its
object, that, after many expressions of pity, she withdrew, still
referring her to the letter of comfort. But the letter, when she was
calm enough to read it, brought little comfort. Willoughby filled
every page. Her mother, still confident of their engagement, and
relying as warmly as ever on his constancy, had only been roused by
Elinor's application, to entreat from Marianne greater openness
towards them both; and this, with such tenderness towards her, such
affection for Willoughby, and such a conviction of their future
happiness in each other, that she wept with agony through the whole of it.
All her impatience to be at home again now returned; her mother
was dearer to her than ever; dearer through the very excess of her
mistaken confidence in Willoughby, and she was wildly urgent to be
gone. Elinor, unable herself, to determine whether it were better
for Marianne to be in London or at Barton, offered no counsel of her
own, except of patience till their mother's wishes could be known; and
at length she obtained her sister's consent to wait for that knowledge.
Mrs. Jennings left them earlier than usual; for she could not be
easy till the Middletons and Palmers were able to grieve as much as
herself; and positively refusing Elinor's offered attendance, went out
alone for the rest of the morning. Elinor, with a very heavy heart,
aware of the pain she was going to communicate, and perceiving, by
Marianne's letter, how ill she had succeeded in laying any
foundation for it, then sat down to write her mother an account of
what had passed, and entreat her directions for the future; while
Marianne, who came into the drawing-room on Mrs. Jennings's going
away, remained fixed at the table where Elinor wrote, watching the
advancement of her pen, grieving over her for the hardship of such a
task, and grieving still more fondly over its effect on her mother.
In this manner they had continued about a quarter of an hour, when
Marianne, whose nerves could not then bear any sudden noise, was
startled by a rap at the door.
"Who can this be?" cried Elinor. "So early too! I thought we had been safe."
Marianne moved to the window.
"It is Colonel Brandon!" said she, with vexation. "We are never
safe from him."
"He will not come in, as Mrs. Jennings is from home."
"I will not trust to that," retreating to her own room. "A man who
has nothing to do with his own time has no conscience in his intrusion
on that of others."
The event proved her conjecture right, though it was founded on
injustice and error; for Colonel Brandon did come in; and Elinor,
who was convinced that solicitude for Marianne brought him thither,
and who saw that solicitude in his disturbed and melancholy look,
and in his anxious though brief enquiry after her, could not forgive
her sister for esteeming him so lightly.
"I met Mrs. Jennings in Bond Street," said he, after the first
salutation, "and she encouraged me to come on; and I was the more
easily encouraged, because I thought it probable that I might find you
alone, which I was very desirous of doing. My object- my wish- my sole
wish in desiring it- I hope, I believe it is- is to be a means of
giving comfort:- no, I must not say comfort- not present comfort-
but conviction, lasting conviction to your sister's mind. My regard
for her, for yourself, for your mother- will you allow me to prove it,
by relating some circumstances which nothing but a very sincere
regard- nothing but an earnest desire of being useful- I think I am
justified- though where so many hours have been spent in convincing
myself that I am right, is there not some reason to fear I may be
wrong?" He stopped.
"I understand you," said Elinor. "You have something to tell me of
Mr. Willoughby, that will open his character farther. Your telling
it will be the greatest act of friendship that can be shown
Marianne. My gratitude will be ensured immediately by any
information tending to that end, and hers must be gained by it in
time. Pray, pray let me hear it."
"You shall; and, to be brief, when I quitted Barton last October,-
but this will give you no idea- I must go farther back. You will
find me a very awkward narrator, Miss Dashwood; I hardly know where to
begin. A short account of myself, I believe, will be necessary, and it
shall be a short one. On such a subject," sighing heavily, "can I have
little temptation to be diffuse."
He stopt a moment for recollection, and then, with another sigh,went on.
"You have probably entirely forgotten a conversation- (it is not
to be supposed that it could make any impression on you)- a
conversation between us one evening at Barton Park- it was the evening
of a dance in which I alluded to a lady I had once known, as
resembling, in some measure, your sister Marianne."
"Indeed," answered Elinor, "I have not forgotten it."
pleased by this remembrance, and added,-
"If I am not deceived by the uncertainty, the partiality of tender
recollection, there is a very strong resemblance between them, as well
in mind as person. The same warmth of heart, the same eagerness of
fancy and spirits. This lady was one of my nearest relations, an
orphan from her infancy, and under the guardianship of my father.
Our ages were nearly the same, and from our earliest years we were
playfellows and friends. I cannot remember the time when I did not
love Eliza; and my affection for her, as we grew up, was such, as,
perhaps, judging from my present forlorn and cheerless gravity, you
might think me incapable of having ever felt. Hers, for me, was, I
believe, fervent as the attachment of your sister to Mr. Willoughby,
and it was, though from a different cause, no less unfortunate. At
seventeen she was lost to me for ever. She was married- married
against her inclination to my brother. Her fortune was large, and
our family estate much encumbered. And this, I fear, is all that can
be said for the conduct of one, who was once her uncle and guardian.
My brother did not deserve her; he did not even love her. I had
hoped that her regard for me would support her under any difficulty,
and for some time it did; but at last the misery of her situation, for
she experienced great unkindness, overcame all her resolution, and
though she had promised me that nothing- but how blindly I relate! I
have never told you how this was brought on. We were within a few
hours of eloping together for Scotland. The treachery, or the folly,
of my cousin's maid betrayed us. I was banished to the house of a
relation far distant, and she was allowed no liberty, no society, no
amusement, till my father's point was gained. I had depended on her
fortitude too far, and the blow was a severe one;- but had her
marriage been happy, so young as I then was, a few months must have
reconciled me to it, or at least I should not have now to lament it.
This, however, was not the case. My brother had no regard for her; his
pleasures were not what they ought to have been, and from the first he
treated her unkindly. The consequence of this, upon a mind so young,
so lively, so inexperienced as Mrs. Brandon's, was but too natural.
She resigned herself at first to all the misery of her situation;
and happy had it been if she had not lived to overcome those regrets
which the remembrance of me occasioned. But can we wonder that, with
such a husband to provoke inconstancy, and without a friend to
advise or restrain her (for my father lived only a few months after
their marriage, and I was with my regiment in the East Indies), she
should fall? Had I remained in England, perhaps,- but I meant to
promote the happiness of both by removing from her for years, and
for that purpose had procured my exchange. The shock which her
marriage had given me," he continued, in a voice of great agitation,
"was of trifling weight was nothing to what I felt when I heard, about
two years afterwards, of her divorce. It was that which threw this
gloom,- even now the recollection of what I suffered-"
He could say no more, and, rising hastily, walked for a few
minutes about the room. Elinor, affected by his relation, and still
more by his distress, could not speak. He saw her concern, and
coming to her, took her hand, pressed it, and kissed it with
grateful respect. A few minutes more of silent exertion enabled him to
proceed with composure.
"It was nearly three years after this unhappy period before I
returned to England. My first care, when I did arrive, was of course
to seek for her; but the search was as fruitless as it was melancholy.
I could not trace her beyond her first seducer, and there was every
reason to fear that she had removed from him only to sink deeper in
a life of sin. Her legal allowance was not adequate to her fortune,
nor sufficient for her comfortable maintenance; and I learnt from my
brother that the power of receiving it had been made over some
months before to another person. He imagined, and calmly could he
imagine it, that her extravagance, and consequent distress, had
obliged her to dispose of it for some immediate relief. At last,
however, and after I had been six months in England, I did find her.
Regard for a former servant of my own, who had since fallen into
misfortune, carried me to visit him in a spunging-house, where he
was confined for debt; and there, the same house, under a similar
confinement, was my unfortunate sister. So altered- so faded- worn
down by acute suffering of every kind! hardly could I believe the
melancholy and sickly figure before me, to be the remains of the
lovely, blooming, healthful girl, on whom I had once doted. What I
endured in so beholding her- but I have no right to wound your
feelings by attempting to describe it- I have pained you too much
already. That she was, to all appearance, in the last stage of a
consumption, was- yes, in such a situation, it was my greatest
comfort. Life could do nothing for her, beyond giving time for a
better preparation for death; and that was given. I saw her placed
in comfortable lodgings, and under proper attendants; I visited her
every day during the rest of her short life: I was with her in her last moments."
Again he stopped to recover himself; and Elinor spoke her feelings
in an exclamation of tended concern at the fate of his unfortunate friend.
"Your sister, I hope, cannot be offended," said he, "by the
resemblance I have fancied between her and my poor disgraced relation.
Their fates, their fortunes, cannot be the same; and had the natural
sweet disposition of the one been guarded by a firmer mind, or a
happier marriage, she might have been all that you will live to see
the other be. But to what does all this lead? I seem to have been
distressing you for nothing. Ah! Miss Dashwood- a subject such as
this- untouched for fourteen years- it is dangerous to handle it at
all! I will be more collected- more concise. She left to my care her
only child, a little girl, the offspring of her first guilty
connection, who was then about three years old. She loved the child,
and had always kept it with her. It was a valued, a precious trust
to me; and gladly would I have discharged it in the strictest sense,
by watching over her education myself, had the nature of our
situations allowed it; but I had no family, no home; and my little
Eliza was, therefore, placed at school. I saw her there whenever I
could; and after the death of my brother (which happened about five
years ago, and which left to me the possession of the family
property), she visited me at Delaford. I called her a distant
relation; but I am well aware that I have in general been suspected of
a much nearer connection with her. It is now three years ago (she
had just reached her fourteenth year) that I removed her from
school, to place her under the care of a very respectable woman,
residing in Dorsetshire, who had the charge of four or five other
girls of about the same time of life; and for two years I had every
reason to be pleased with her situation. But last February, almost a
twelvemonth back, she suddenly disappeared. I had allowed her
(imprudently, as it has since turned out), at her earnest desire, to
go to Bath with one of her young friends, who was attending her father
there, for his health. I knew him to be a very good sort of man, and I
thought well of his daughter better than she deserved; for, with a
most obstinate and ill-judged secrecy, she would tell nothing, would
give no clue, though she certainly knew all. He, her father, a
well-meaning, but not a man, could really, I believe, give no
information; for he had been generally confined to the house, while
the girls were ranging over the town, and making what acquaintance
they chose; and he tried to convince me, as thoroughly as he was
convinced himself, of his daughter's being entirely unconcerned in the
business. In short, I could learn nothing but that she was gone, all
the rest, for eight long months, was left to conjecture. What I
thought, what I feared, may be imagined; and what I suffered too."
"Good Heavens!" cried Elinor, "could it be- could Willoughby!"-
"The first news that reached me of her," he continued, "came in
a letter from herself, last October. It was forwarded to me from
Delaford, and I received it on the very morning of our intended
party to Whitwell; and this was the reason of my leaving Barton so
suddenly, which I am sure must at the time have appeared strange to
everybody, and which I believe gave offence to some. Little did Mr.
Willoughby imagine, I suppose, when his looks censured me for
incivility in breaking up the party, that I was called away to the
relief of one whom he had made poor and miserable; but had he known
it, what would it have availed? Would he have been less gay or less
happy in the smiles of your sister? No, he had already done that,
which no man who can feel for another would do. He had left the girl
whose youth and innocence he had seduced in a situation of the
utmost distress, with no creditable home, no help, no friends,
ignorant of his address! He had left her, promising to return; he
neither returned, nor wrote, nor relieved her."
"This is beyond every thing!" exclaimed Elinor.
"His character is now before you,- expensive, dissipated, and
worse than both. Knowing all this, as I have now known it many
weeks, guess what I must have felt on seeing your sister as fond of
him as ever, and on being assured that she was to marry him: guess
what I must have felt for all your sakes. When I came to you last week
and found you alone, I came determined to know the truth; though
irresolute what to do when it was known. My behaviour must have seemed
strange to you then; but now you will comprehend it. To suffer you all
to be so deceived; to see your sister- but what could I do? I had no
hope of interfering with success; and sometimes I thought your
sister's influence might yet reclaim him. But now, after such
dishonorable usage, who can tell what were his designs on her.
Whatever they may have been, however, she may now, and hereafter
doubtless will, turn with gratitude towards her own condition, when
she compares it with that of my poor Eliza; when she considers the
wretched and hopeless situation of this poor girl, and pictures her to
herself, with an affection for him so strong, still as strong as her
own, and with a mind tormented by self-reproach, which must attend her
through life. Surely this comparison must have its use with her. She
will feel her own sufferings to be nothing: they proceed from no
misconduct, and can bring no disgrace. On the contrary, every friend
must be made still more her friend by them. Concern for her
unhappiness, and respect for or her fortitude under it, must
strengthen every attachment. Use your own discretion, however, in
communicating to her what I have told you. You must know best what
will be its effect; but had I not seriously, and from my heart
believed it might be of service, might lessen her regrets, I would not
have suffered myself to trouble you with this account of my family
afflictions,- with a recital which may seem to have been intended to
raise myself at the expense of others."
Elinor's thanks followed this speech with grateful earnestness;
attended, too, with the assurance of her expecting material
advantage to Marianne from the communication of what had passed.
"I have been more pained," said she, "by her endeavors to acquit
him than by all the rest; for it irritates her mind more than the most
perfect conviction of his unworthiness can do. Now, though at first
she will suffer much, I am sure she will soon become easier. Have
you," she continued, after a short silence, "ever seen Mr.
Willoughby since you left him at Barton?"
"Yes," he replied gravely, "once I have. One meeting was unavoidable."
Elinor, startled by his manner, looked at him anxiously, saying,-
"What! have you met him to-"
"I could meet him no other way. Eliza had confessed to me,
though most reluctantly, the name of her lover; and when he returned
to town, which was within a fortnight after myself, we met by
appointment; he to defend, I to punish his conduct. We returned
unwounded, and the meeting, therefore, never got abroad."
Elinor sighed over the fancied necessity of this; but to a man and
a soldier she presumed not to censure it.
"Such," said Colonel Prandon, after a pause, "has been the unhappy
resemblance between the fate of mother and daughter; and so
imperfectly have I discharged my trust."
"Is she still in town?"
"No; as soon as she recovered from her lying-in, for I found her
near her delivery, I removed her and her child into the country, and
there she remains."
Recollecting, soon afterwards, that he was probably dividing
Elinor from her sister, he put an end to his visit, receiving from her
again the same grateful acknowledgments, and leaving her full of
compassion and esteem for him.
Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 30 Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 32