Edward, having carried his thanks to Colonel Brandon, proceeded
with his happiness to Lucy; and such was the excess of it by the
time he reached Bartlett's Buildings, that she was able to assure Mrs.
Jennings, who called on her again the next day with her
congratulations, that she had never seen him in such spirits before in her life.
Her own happiness, and her own spirits, were at least very
certain; and she joined Mrs. Jennings most heartily in her expectation
of their being all comfortably together in Delaford Parsonage before
Michaelmas. So far was she, at the same time, from any backwardness to
give Elinor that credit which Edward would give her, that she spoke of
her friendship for them both with the most gratefull warmth, was ready
to own all their obligation to her, and openly declared that no
exertion for their good on Miss Dashwood's part, either present or
future, would ever surprise her, for she believed her capable of doing
any thing in the world for those she really valued. As for Colonel
Brandon, she was not only ready to worship him as a saint, but was,
moreover, truly anxious that he should be treated as one in all wordly
concerns; anxious that his tithes should be raised to the utmost;
and secretly resolved to avail herself, at Delaford, as far as she
possibly could, of his servants, his carriage, his cows, and his poultry.
It was now above a week since John Dashwood had called in
Berkely Street, and as since that time no notice had been taken by
them of his wife's indisposition, beyond one verbal enquiry, Elinor
began to feel it necessary to pay her a visit. This was an obligation,
however, which not only opposed her own inclination, but which had not
the assistance of any encouragement from her companions. Marianne, not
contented with absolutely refusing to go herself, was very urgent to
prevent her sister's going at all; and Mrs. Jennings, though her
carriage was always at Elinor's service, so very much disliked Mrs.
John Dashwood, that not even her curiosity to see how she looked after
the late discovery, nor her strong desire to affront her by taking
Edward's part, could overcome her unwillingness to be in her company
again. The consequence was, that Elinor set out by herself to pay a
visit, for which no one could really have less inclination, and to run
the risk of a tete-a-tete with a woman whom neither of the others
had so much reason to dislike.
Mrs. Dashwood was denied; but before the carriage could turn
from the house, her husband accidentally came out. He expressed
great pleasure in meeting Elinor, told her that he had been just going
to call in Berkely Street, and, assuring her that Fanny would be
very glad to see her, invited her to come in.
They walked up stairs in to the drawing-room. Nobody was there.
"Fanny is in her own room, I suppose," said he: "I will go to
her presently, for or am sure she will not have the least objection in
the world to seeing you. Very far from it, indeed. Now especially
there cannot be- but, however, you and Marianne were always great
favourites. Why, would not Marianne come?"
Elinor made what excuse she could for her.
"I am not sorry to see you alone," he replied, "for I have a
good deal to say to you. This living of Colonel Brandon's- can it be
true? has he really given it to Edward? I heard it yesterday by
chance, and was coming to you on purpose to enquire farther about it."
"It is perfectly true. Colonel Brandon has given the living of
Delaford to Edward."
"Really! Well, this is very astonishing!- no relationship!- no
connection between them!- and now that livings fetch such a price!-
what was the value of this?"
"About two hundred a year."
"Very well- and for the next presentation to a living of that
value- supposing the late incumbent to have been old and sickly, and
likely to vacate it soon- he might have got, I dare say- fourteen
hundred pounds. And how came he not to have settled that matter before
this person's death? Now, indeed, it would be too late to sell it; but
a man of Colonel Brandon's sense! I wonder he should be so improvident
in a point of such common, such natural, concern! Well, I am convinced
that there is a vast deal of inconsistency in almost every human
character. I suppose, however- on recollection- that the case may
probably be this. Edward is only to hold the living till the person to
whom the Colonel has really sold the presentation is old enough to
take it. Ay, ay, that is the fact, depend upon it."
Elinor contradicted it, however, very positively; and by
relating that she had herself been employed in conveying the offer
from Colonel Brandon to Edward, and, therefore, must understand the
terms on which it was given, obliged him to submit to her authority.
"It is truly astonishing!" he cried, after hearing what she
said: "what could be the Colonel's motive?"
"A very simple one,- to be of use to Mr. Ferrars."
"Well, well; whatever Colonel Brandon may be, Edward is a very
lucky man. You will not mention the matter to Fanny, however; for
though I have broke it to her, and she bears it vastly well, she
will not like to hear it much talked of."
Elinor had some difficulty here to refrain from observing, that
she thought Fanny might have borne with composure an acquisition of
wealth to her brother, by which neither she nor her child could be
"Mrs. Ferrars," added he, lowering his voice to the tone
becoming so important a subject, "knows nothing about it at present;
and I believe it will be best to keep it entirely concealed from her
as long as may be. When the marriage takes place, I fear, she must
hear of it all."
"But why should such precaution be used? Though it is not to be
supposed that Mrs. Ferrars can have the smallest satisfaction in
knowing that her son has money enough to live upon, for that must be
quite out of the question; yet why, upon her late behaviour, is she
supposed to feel at all? She has done with her son,- she cast him
off for ever, and has made all those over whom she had any influence
cast him off likewise. Surely, after doing so, she cannot be
imagined liable to any impression of sorrow or of joy on his
account; she cannot be interested in any thing that befalls him. She
would not be so weak as to throw away the comfort of a child, and
yet retain the anxiety of a parent!"
"Ah! Elinor," said John, "your reasoning is very good; but it is
founded on ignorance of human nature. When Edward's unhappy match
takes place, depend upon it, his mother will feel as much as if she
had never discarded him; and, therefore, every circumstance that may
accelerate that dreadful event must be concealed from her as much as
possible. Mrs. Ferrars can never forget that Edward is her son."
"You surprise me; I should think it must nearly have escaped her
memory by this time."
"You wrong her exceedingly. Mrs. Ferrars is one of the most
affectionate mothers in the world."
Elinor was silent.
"We think now," said Mr. Dashwood, after a short pause, "of
Robert's marrying Miss Morton."
Elinor, smiling at the grave and decisive importance of her
brother's tone, calmly replied,-
"The lady, I suppose, has no choice in the affair."
"Choice! how do you mean?"
"I only mean that I suppose, from your manner of speaking, it must
be the same to Miss Morton whether she marry Edward or Robert."
"Certainly, there can be no difference; for Robert will now, to
all intents and purposes, be considered as the eldest son; and, as
to any thing else, they are both very agreeable young men: I do not
know that one is superior to the other."
Elinor said no more, and John was also for a short time silent.
His reflections ended thus:-
"Of one thing, my dear sister," kindly taking her hand, and
speaking in an awful whisper, "I may assure you; and I will do it,
because I know it must gratify you. I have good reason to think-
indeed I have it from the best authority, or I should not repeat it;
for otherwise it would be very wrong to say any thing about it,- but I
have it from the very best authority, not that I ever precisely
heard Mrs. Ferrars say it herself, but her daughter did, and I have it
from her,- that, in short, whatever objections there might be
against a certain- a certain connection, you understand me,- it
would have been far preferable to her,- it would not have given her
half the vexation that this does. I was exceedingly pleased to hear
that Mrs. Ferrars considered it in that light; a very gratifying
circumstance, you know, to us all. 'It would have been beyond
comparison,' she said, 'the least evil of the two; and she would be
glad to compound now for nothing worse.' But, however, all that is
quite out of the question,- not to be thought of, or mentioned. As
to any attachment, you know, it never could be: all that is gone by.
But I thought I would just tell you of this, because I knew how much
it must please you. Not that you have any reason to regret, my dear
Elinor: there is no doubt of your doing exceedingly well,- quite as
well, or better, perhaps, all things considered. Has Colonel Brandon
been with you lately?"
Elinor had heard enough, if not to gratify her vanity and raise
her self-importance, to agitate her nerves and fill her mind; and
she was, therefore, glad to be spared from the necessity of saying
much in reply herself, and from the danger of hearing any thing more
from her brother, by the entrance of Mr. Robert Ferrars. After a few
moments' chat, John Dashwood, recollecting that Fanny was yet
uninformed of her sister's being there, quitted the room in quest of
her; and Elinor was left to improve her acquaintance with Robert, who,
by the gay unconcern, the happy self-complacency of his manner,
while enjoying so unfair a division of his mother's love and
liberality, to the prejudice of his banished brother, earned only by
his own dissipated course of life and that brother's integrity, was
confirming her most unfavourable opinion of his head and heart.
They had scarcely been two minutes by themselves, before he
began to speak of Edward; for he, too, had heard of the living and was
very inquisitive on the subject. Elinor repeated the particulars of
it, as she had given them to John; and their effect on Robert,
though very different, was not less striking than it had been on
him. He laughed most immoderately. The idea of Edward's being a
clergyman, and living in a small parsonage-house, diverted him
beyond measure; and when to that was added the fanciful imagery of
Edward reading prayers in a white surplice, and publishing the banns
of marriage between John Smith and Mary Brown, he could conceive
nothing more ridiculous.
Elinor, while she waited in silence and immovable gravity the
conclusion of such folly, could not restrain her eyes from being fixed
on him with a look that spoke all the contempt it excited. It was a
look, however, very well bestowed; for it relieved her own feelings,
and gave no intelligence to him. He was recalled from wit to wisdom,
not by any reproof of hers, but by his own sensibility.
"We may treat it as a joke," said he, at last, recovering from the
affected laugh which had considerably lengthened out the genuine
gaiety of the moment; "but, upon my soul, it is a most serious
business. Poor Edward! he is ruined for ever. I am extremely sorry for
it; for I know him to be a very good-hearted creature,- as
well-meaning a fellow, perhaps, as any in the world. You must not
judge of him, Miss Dashwood, from your slight acquaintance. Poor
Edward! His manners are certainly not the happiest in nature. But we
are not all born, you know, with the same powers,- the same address.
Poor fellow! to see him in a circle of strangers! To be sure it was
pitiable enough; but, upon my soul, I believe he has as good a heart
as any in the kingdom; and I declare and protest to you, I never was
so shocked in my life as when it all burst forth. I could not
believe it. My mother was the first person who told me of it; and I,
feeling myself called on to act with resolution, immediately said to
her,- 'My dear madam, I do not know what you may intend to do on the
occasion; but as for myself, I must say, that if Edward does marry
this young woman, I never will see him again.' That was what I said
immediately. I was most uncommonly shocked, indeed. Poor Edward! he
has done for himself completely,- shut himself out for ever from all
decent society! But, as I directly said to my mother, I am not in
the least surprised at it; from his style of education, it was
always to be expected. My poor mother was half frantic."
"Have you ever seen the lady?"
"Yes; once, while she was staying in this house, I happened to
drop in for ten minutes; and I saw quite enough of her; the merest
awkward country girl, without style, or elegance, and almost without
beauty. I remember her perfectly. Just the kind of girl I should
suppose likely to captivate poor Edward. I offered immediately, as
soon as my mother related the affair to me, to talk to him myself, and
dissuade him from the match; but it was too late then, I found, to
do any thing; for, unluckily, I was not in the way at first, and
knew nothing of it till after the breach had taken place, when, it was
not for me, you know, to interfere. But, had I been informed of it a
few hours earlier, I think it is most probable that something might
have been hit on. I certainly should have represented it to Edward
in a very strong light. 'My dear fellow,' I should have said,
'consider what you are doing. You are making a most disgraceful
connection, and such a one as your family are unanimous in
disapproving.' I cannot help thinking, in short, that means might have
been found; but now it is all too late. He must be starved, you
know, that is certain; absolutely starved."
He had just settled this point with great composure, when the
entrance of Mrs. John Dashwood put an end to the subject. But though
she never spoke of it out of her own family, Elinor could see its
influence on her mind in the something like confusion of countenance
with which she entered, and an attempt at cordiality in her
behaviour to herself. She even proceeded so far as to be concerned
to find that Elinor and her sister were so soon to leave town, as
she had hoped to see more of them; an exertion in which her husband,
who attended her into the room, and hung enamoured over her accents,
seemed to distinguish every thing that was most affectionate and graceful.
Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 40 Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 42