Mrs. Jennings was very warm in her praise of Edward's conduct
only Elinor and Marianne understood its true merit. They only knew how
little he had had to tempt him to be disobedient, and how small was
the consolation, beyond the consciousness of doing right, that could
remain to him in the loss of friends and fortune. Elinor gloried in
; and Marianne forgave all his offences in compassion for
his punishment. But though confidence between them was, by this public
discovery, restored to its proper state, it was not a subject on which
either of them were fond of dwelling when alone. Elinor avoided it
upon principle, as tending to fix still more upon her thoughts, by the
too warm, too positive assurances of Marianne, that belief of Edward's
continued affection for herself which she rather wished to do away;
and Marianne's courage soon failed her, in trying to converse upon a
topic which always left her more dissatisfied with herself than
ever, by the comparison it necessarily produced between Elinor's
conduct and her own.
She felt all the force of that comparison; but not as her sister
had hoped, to urge her to exertion now; she felt it with all the
pain of continual self-reproach, regretted most bitterly that she
had never exerted herself before; but it brought only the torture of
penitence, without the hope of amendment. Her mind was so much
weakened, that she still fancied present exertion impossible, and
therefore it only dispirited her more.
Nothing new was heard by them, for a day or two afterwards, of
affairs in Harley Street or Bartlett's Buildings. But though so much
of the matter was known to them already, that Mrs. Jennings might have
had enough to do in spreading that knowledge farther, without
seeking after more, she had resolved from the first to pay a visit
of comfort and enquiry to her cousins as soon as she could; and
nothing but the hindrance of more visitors than usual had prevented
her going to them within that time.
The third day succeeding their knowledge of the particulars was so
fine, so beautiful a Sunday, as to draw many to Kensington Gardens,
though it was only the second week in March. Mrs. Jennings and
Elinor were of the number; but Marianne, who knew that the Willoughbys
were again in town, and had a constant dread of meeting them, chose
rather to stay at home, than venture into so public a place.
An intimate acquaintance of Mrs. Jennings joined them soon after
they entered the Gardens; and Elinor was not sorry that by her
continuing with them, and engaging all Mrs. Jennings's conversation,
she was herself left to quiet reflection. She saw nothing of the
Willoughbys, nothing of Edward, and for some time nothing of any
body who could by any chance, whether grave or gay, be interesting
to her. But at last she found herself, with some surprise, accosted by
Miss Steele, who, though looking rather shy, expressed great
satisfaction in meeting them; and on receiving encouragement from
the particular kindness of Mrs. Jennings, left her own party for a
short time, to join theirs. Mrs. Jennings immediately whispered to Elinor,-
"Get it all out of her, my dear. She will tell you any thing, if
you ask. You see I cannot leave Mrs. Clarke."
It was lucky, however, for Mrs. Jennings's curiosity and
Elinor's too, that she would tell any thing without being asked; for
nothing would otherwise have been learnt.
"I am so glad to meet you," said Miss Steele, taking her
familiarly by the arm- "for I wanted to see you of all things in the
world." And then lowering her voice, "I suppose Mrs. Jennings has
heard all about it. Is she angry?"
"Not at all, I believe, with you."
"That is a good thing. And Lady Middleton, is she angry?"
"I cannot suppose it possible that she should."
"I am monstrous glad of it. Good gracious! I have had such a
time of it! I never saw Lucy in such a rage in my life. She vowed at
first she would never trim me up a new bonnet, nor do any thing else
for me again, so long as she lived; but now she is quite come to,
and we are as good friends as ever. Look, she made me this bow to my
hat, and put in the feather last night. There now, you are going to
laugh at me too.- But why should not I wear pink ribands? I do not
care if it is the Doctor's favourite colour. I am sure, for my part, I
should never have known he did like it better than any other colour,
if he had not happened to say so. My cousins have been so plaguing me!
I declare sometimes I do not know which way to look before them."
She had wandered away to a subject on which Elinor had nothing
to say, and therefore soon judged it expedient to find her way back
again to the first.
"Well, but Miss Dashwood," speaking triumphantly, "people may
say what they choose about Mr. Ferrars's declaring he would not have
Lucy, for it is no such thing, I can tell you; and it is quite a shame
for such ill-natured reports to be spread abroad. Whatever Lucy
might think about it herself, you know, it was no business of other
people to set it down for certain."
"I never heard any thing of the kind hinted at before, I assure
you," said Elinor.
"Oh, did not you? But it was said, I know, very well, and by
more than one; for Miss Godby told Miss Sparks, that nobody in their
senses could expect Mr. Ferrars to give up a woman like Miss Morton,
with thirty thousand pounds to her fortune, for Lucy Steele, that
had nothing at all; and I had it from Miss Sparks myself. And
besides that, my cousin Richard said himself, that when it came to the
point he was afraid Mr. Ferrars would be off; and when Edward did
not come near us for three days, I could not tell what to think
myself; and I believe in my heart Lucy gave it up all for lost; for we
came away from your brother's Wednesday, and we saw nothing of him not
all Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and did not know what was become of
him. Once Lucy thought to write to him, but then her spirits rose
against that. However, this morning he came just as we came home
from church; and then it all came out, how he had been sent for
Wednesday to Harley Street, and been talked to by his mother and all
of them, and how he had declared before them all that he loved
nobody but Lucy, and nobody but Lucy would he have. And how he had
been so worried by what passed, that as soon as he had went away
from his mother's house, he had got upon his horse, and rid into the
country, somewhere or other; and how he had stayed about at an inn all
Thursday and Friday, on purpose to get the better of it. And after
thinking it all over and over again, he said, it seemed to him as
if, now he had no fortune, and no nothing at all, it would be quite
unkind to keep her on to the engagement, because it must be for her
loss, for he had nothing but two thousand pounds, and no hope of any
thing else; and if he was to go into orders, as he had some
thoughts, he could get nothing but a curacy; and how was they to
live upon that? He could not bear to think of her doing no better, and
so he begged, if she had the least mind for it, to put an end to the
matter directly, and leave him shift for himself. I heard him say
all this as plain as could possibly be. And it was entirely for her
sake, and upon her account, that he said a word about being off, and
not upon his own. I will take my oath he never dropt a syllable of
being tired of her, or of wishing to marry Miss Morton, or any thing
like it. But, to be sure, Lucy would not give ear to such kind of
talking; so she told him directly (with a great deal about sweet and
love, you know, and all that- Oh, la! one can't repeat such kind of
things you know)- she told him directly, she had not the least mind in
the world to be off, for she could live with him upon a trifle, and
how little soever he might have, she should be very glad to have it
all, you know, or something of the kind. So then he was monstrous
happy, and talked on some time about what they should do, and they
agreed he should take orders directly, and they must wait to be
married till he got a living. And just then I could not hear any more,
for my cousin called from below to tell me Mrs. Richardson was come in
her coach, and would take one of us to Kensington Gardens; so I was
forced to go into the room and interrupt them, to ask Lucy if she
would like to go, but she did not care to leave Edward; so I just
ran up stairs and put on a pair of silk stockings and came off with
"I do not understand what you mean by interrupting them," said
Elinor; "you were all in the same room together, were you not?"
"No, indeed, not us. La! Miss Dashwood, do you think people make
love when any body else is by? Oh, for shame! To be sure you must know
better than that. (Laughing affectedly.) No, no; they were shut up
in the drawing-room together, and all I heard was only by listening at the door."
"How!" cried Elinor; "have you been repeating to me what you
only learnt yourself by listening at the door! I am sorry I did not
know it before; for I certainly would not have suffered you to give me
particulars of a conversation which you ought not to have known
yourself. How could you behave so unfairly by your sister?"
"Oh, la! there is nothing in that. I only stood at the door, and
heard what I could. And I am sure Lucy would have done just the same
by me; for a year or two back, when Martha Sharpe and I had so many
secrets together, she never made any bones of hiding in a closet, or
behind a chimney-board, on purpose to hear what we said."
Elinor tried to talk of something else; but Miss Steele could
not be kept beyond a couple of minutes, from what was uppermost in her mind.
"Edward talks of going to Oxford, soon," said she; "but now he
is, an't she? And your brother and sister were not very kind! However,
I shan't say anything against them to you; and to be sure they did
send us home in their own chariot, which was more than I looked for.
And for my part, I was all in a fright for fear your sister should ask
us for the huswifes she had given us a day or two before; but,
however, nothing was said about them, and I took care to keep mine out
of sight. Edward have got some business at Oxford, he says; so he must
go there for a time; and after that, as soon as he can light upon a
bishop, he will be ordained, I wonder what curacy he will get? Good
gracious! (giggling as she spoke) I'd lay my life I know what my
cousins will say, when they hear of it. They will tell me I should
write to the Doctor, to get Edward the curacy of his new living. I
know they will; but I am sure I would not do such a thing for all
the world. 'La!' I shall directly, 'I wonder how you could think of
such a thing? I write to the Doctor, indeed!'"
"Well," said Elinor, "it is a comfort to be prepared against the
worst. You have got your answer ready."
Miss Steele was going to reply on the same subject, but the
approach of her own party made another more necessary.
"Oh, la! here come the Richardsons. I had a vast deal more to
say to you, but I must not stay away from them not any longer. I
assure you they are very genteel people. He makes a monstrous deal
of money, and they keep their own coach. I have not time to speak to
Mrs. Jennings about it myself, but pray tell her I am quite happy to
hear she is not in anger against us, and Lady Middleton the same;
and if anything should happen to take you and your sister away, and
Mrs. Jennings should want company, I am sure we should be very glad to
come and stay with her for as long a time as she likes. I suppose Lady
Middleton won't ask us any more this bout. Good-by; I am sorry Miss
Marianne was not here. Remember me kindly to her. La! if you have
not got your spotted muslin on! I wonder you was not afraid of its being torn."
Such was her parting concern; for after this she had time only
to pay her farewell compliments to Mrs. Jennings, before her company
was claimed by Mrs. Richardson; and Elinor was left in possession of
knowledge which might feed her powers of reflection some time,
though she had learnt very little more than what had been already
foreseen and foreplanned in her own mind. Edward's marriage with
Lucy was as firmly determined on, and the time of its taking place
remained as absolutely uncertain, as she had concluded it would be:-
every thing depended, exactly after her expectation, on his getting
that perferment, of which there seemed not the smallest chance.
As soon as they returned to the carriage, Mrs. Jennings was
eager for information; but as Elinor wished to spread as little as
possible intelligence that had in the first place been so unfairly
obtained, she confined herself to the brief repetition of such
simple particulars, as she felt assured that Lucy, for the sake of her
own consequence, would choose to have known. The continuance of
their engagement, and the means that were able to be taken for
promoting its end, was all her communication; and this produced from
Mrs. Jennings the following natural remark:-
"Wait for his having a living!- ay, we all know how that will
end:- they will wait a twelvemonth, and finding no good comes of it,
will set down upon a curacy of fifty pounds a year, with the
interest of his two thousand pounds, and what little matter Mr. Steele
and Mr. Pratt can give her. Then they will have a child every year!
and, Lord help 'em! how poor they will be! I must see what I can
give them towards furnishing their house. Two maids and two men,
indeed! as I talked of t' other day. No, no, they must get a stout
girl of all works. Betty's sister would never do for them now."
The next morning brought Elinor a letter by the two-penny post
from Lucy herself. It was as follows:-
"Bartlett's Building, March.
I hope my dear Miss Dashwood will excuse the liberty I take of
writing to her; but I know your friendship for me will make you
pleased to hear such a good account of myself and my dear Edward,
after all the troubles we have went through lately, therefore will
make no more apologies, but proceed to say that, thank God! though
we have suffered dreadfully, we are both quite well now, and as
happy as we must always be in one another's love. We have had great
trials, and great persecutions, but, however, at the same time,
gratefully acknowledge many friends, yourself not the least among
them, whose great kindness I shall always thankfully remember, as will
Edward too, who I have told of it. I am sure you will be glad to hear,
as likewise dear Mrs. Jennings, I spent two happy hours with him
yesterday afternoon: he would not hear of our parting, though
earnestly did I, as I thought my duty required, urge him to it for
prudence sake, and would have parted for ever on the spot, would he
consent to it; but he said it should never be, he did not regard his
mother's anger, while he could have my affections; our prospects are
not very bright, to be sure, but we must wait, and hope for the
best; he will be ordained shortly; and should it ever be in your power
to recommend him to any body that has a living to bestow, am very sure
you will not forget us; and dear Mrs. Jennings too, trust she will
speak a good word for us to Sir John, or Mr. Palmer, or any friend
that may be able to assist us.- Poor Anne was much to blame for what
she did, but she did it for the best, so I say nothing; hope Mrs.
Jennings won't think it too much trouble to give us a call, should she
come this way any morning, it would be a great kindness, and my
cousins would be proud to know her.- My paper reminds me to
conclude; and begging to be most gratefully and respectfully
remembered to her, and to Sir John and Lady Middleton, and the dear
children, when you chance to see them, and love to Miss Marianne,
I am, &c. &c."
As soon as Elinor had finished it, she performed what she
concluded to be its writer's real design
, by placing it in the hands
of Mrs. Jennings, who read it aloud with many comments of satisfaction
"Very well indeed!- how prettily she writes!- ay, that was quite
proper to let him be off if he would. That was just like Lucy. Poor
soul! I wish I could get him a living, with all my heart. She calls me
dear Mrs. Jennings, you see. She is a good-hearted girl as ever lived.
Very well, upon my word. That sentence is very prettily turned. Yes,
yes, I will go and see her, sure enough. How attentive she is, to
think of every body!- Thank you, my dear, for showing it me. It is
as pretty a letter as ever I saw, and does Lucy's head and heart great credit."
Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 37 Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 39