Elinor, for some time after he left her, for some time even
after the sound of his carriage had died away, remained too much
ed by a crowd of ideas, widely differing in themselves, but
of which sadness was the general result, to think even of her sister.
Willoughby- he whom only half an hour ago she had abhorred as
the most worthless of men- Willoughby, in spite of all his faults,
excited a degree of commiseration for the sufferings produced by them,
which made her think of him as now separated for ever from her family,
with a tenderness, a regret, rather in proportion, as she soon
acknowledged within herself, to his wishes than to his merits. She
felt that his influence over her mind was heightened by
circumstances which ought not in reason to have weight: by that person
of uncommon attraction, that open, affectionate, and lively manner,
which it was no merit to possess; and by that still ardent love for
Marianne, which it was not even innocent to indulge. But she felt that
it was so, long, long before she could feel his influence less.
When at last she returned to the unconscious Marianne, she found
her just awaking, refreshed by so long and sweet a sleep to the extent
of her hopes. Elinor's heart was full. The past, the present, the
future, Willoughby's visit, Marianne's safety, and her mother's
expected arrival, threw her altogether into an agitation of spirits
which kept off every indication of fatigue, and made her only
fearful of betraying herself to her sister. Short was the time,
however, in which that fear could affect her; for within half an
hour after Willoughby's leaving the house, she was again called down
stairs by the sound of another carriage. Eager to save her mother from
every unnecessary moment's horrible suspense, she ran immediately into
the hall, and reached the outward door just in time to receive and
support her as she entered it.
Mrs. Dashwood, whose terror as they drew near the house had
produced almost the conviction of Marianne's being no more, had no
voice to enquire after her, no voice even for Elinor: but she, waiting
neither for salutation nor enquiry, instantly gave the joyful
relief; and her mother, catching it with all her usual warmth, was
in a moment as much overcome by her happiness as she had been before
by her fears. She was supported into the drawing-room between her
daughter and her friend; and there, shedding tears of joy, though
still unable to speak, embraced Elinor again and again, turning from
her at intervals to press Colonel Brandon's hand, with a look which
spoke at once her gratitude, and her conviction of his sharing with
herself in the bliss of the moment. He shared it, however, in a
silence even greater than her own.
As soon as Mrs. Dashwood had recovered herself, to see Marianne
was her first desire; and in two minutes she was with her beloved
child, rendered dearer to her than ever by absence, unhappiness, and
danger. Elinor's delight, as she saw what each felt in the meeting,
was only checked by an apprehension of its robbing Marianne of farther
sleep: but Mrs. Dashwood could be calm, could be even prudent, when
the life of a child was at stake; and Marianne, satisfied in knowing
her mother was near her, and conscious of being too weak for
conversation, submitted readily to the silence and quiet prescribed by
every nurse around her. Mrs. Dashwood would sit up with her all night;
and Elinor, in compliance with her mother's entreaty, went to bed. But
the rest, which one night entirely sleepless, and many hours of the
most wearing anxiety seemed to make requisite, was kept off by
irritation of spirits. Willoughby, "poor Willoughby," as she now
allowed herself to call him, was constantly in her thoughts: she would
not but have heard his vindication for the world, and now blamed,
now acquitted herself for having judged him so harshly before. But her
promise of relating it to her sister was invariably painful. She
dreaded the performance of it, dreaded what its effect on Marianne
might be; doubted whether, after such an explanation, she could ever
be happy with another; and for a moment wished Willoughby a widower.
Then, remembering Colonel Brandon, reproved herself, felt that to
his sufferings and his constancy, far more than to his rival's, the
reward of her sister was due, and wished any thing rather than Mrs.
The shock of Colonel Brandon's errand at Barton had been much
softened to Mrs. Dashwood by her own previous alarm; for so great
was her uneasiness about Marianne, that she had already determined
to set out for Cleveland on that very day without waiting for any
further intelligence, and had so far settled her journey before his
arrival, that the Careys were then expected every moment to fetch
Margaret away, as her mother was unwilling to take her where there
might be infection.
Marianne continued to mend every day; and the brilliant
cheerfulness of Mrs. Dashwood's looks and spirits proved her to be, as
she repeatedly declared herself, one of the happiest women in the
world. Elinor could not hear the declaration, nor witness its
proofs, without sometimes wondering whether her mother ever
recollected Edward. But Mrs. Dashwood, trusting to the temperate
account of her own disappointment, which Elinor had sent her, was
led away by the exuberance of her joy to think only of what would
increase it. Marianne was restored to her, from a danger in which,
as she now began to feel, her own mistaken judgment in encouraging the
unfortunate attachment to Willoughby had contributed to place her; and
in her recovery she had yet another source of joy, unthought of by
Elinor. It was thus imparted to her, as soon as any opportunity of
private conference between them occurred.
"At last we are alone. My Elinor, you do not yet know all my
happiness. Colonel Brandon loves Marianne. He has told me so himself."
Her daughter, feeling by turns both pleased and pained,
surprised and not surprised, was all silent attention.
"You are never like me, dear Elinor, or I should wonder at your
composure now. Had I sat down to wish for any possible good to my
family, I should have fixed on Colonel Brandon's marrying one of
you, as the object most desirable; and I believe Marianne will be
the most happy with him of the two."
Elinor was half inclined to ask her reason for thinking so,
because satisfied that none, founded on an impartial consideration
of their age, characters, or feelings, could be given: but her
mother must always be carried away by her imagination, on any
interesting subject; and, therefore, instead of an enquiry, she passed
it off with a smile.
"He opened his whole heart to me yesterday as we travelled. It
came out quite unawares, quite undesignedly. I, you may well
believe, could talk of nothing but my child:- he could not conceal his
distress; I saw that it equalled my own; and he, perhaps thinking that
mere friendship, as the world now goes, would not justify so warm a
sympathy; or rather, not thinking at all, I suppose, giving way to
irresistible feelings, made me acquainted with his earnest, tender,
constant, affection for Marianne. He has loved her, my Elinor, ever
since the first moment of seeing her."
Here, however, Elinor perceived, not the language, not the
professions of Colonel Brandon, but the natural embellishments of
her mother's active fancy, which fashioned every thing delightful to
her as it chose.
"His regard for her, infinitely surpassing any thing that
Willoughby ever felt or feigned, as much more warm, as more sincere or
constant, whichever we are to call it, has subsisted through all the
knowledge of dear Marianne's unhappy prepossession for that
worthless young man! and without selfishness, without encouraging a
hope! could he have seen her happy with another. Such a noble mind!
such openness, such sincerity! No one can be deceived in him."
"Colonel Brandon's character," said Elinor, "as an excellent
man, is well established."
"I know it is," replied her mother, seriously, "or, after such a
warning, I should be the last to encourage such affection, or even
to be pleased by it. But his coming for me, as he did, with such
active, such ready friendship, is enough to prove him one of the
worthiest of men."
"His character, however," answered Elinor, "does not rest on one
act of kindness, to which his affection for Marianne, were humanity
out of the case, would have prompted him. To Mrs. Jennings, to the
Middletons, he has been long and intimately known: they equally love
and respect him; and even my own knowledge of him, though lately
acquired, is very considerable; and so highly do I value and esteem
him, that if Marianne can be happy with him, I shall be as ready as
yourself to think our connection the greatest blessing to us in the
world. What answer did you give him? Did you allow him to hope?"
"Oh, my love! I could not then talk of hope to him or to myself.
Marianne might, at that moment, be dying. But he did not ask for hope,
or encouragement. His was an involuntary confidence, an
irrepressible effusion to a soothing friend, not an application to a
parent. Yet, after a time, I did say, for, at first, I was quite
overcome, that if she lived, as I trusted she might, my greatest
happiness would lie in promoting their marriage; and since our
arrival, since our delightful security, I have repeated it to him more
fully, have given him every encouragement in my power. Time, a very
little time, I tell him, will do every thing; Marianne's heart is
not to be wasted for ever on such a man as Willoughby. His own
merits must soon secure it."
"To judge from the Colonel's spirits, however, you have not yet
made him equally sanguine."
"No. He thinks Marianne's affection too deeply rooted for any
change in it under a great length of time; and even supposing her
heart again free, is too diffident of himself to believe, that with
such a difference of age and disposition he could ever attach her.
There, however, he is quite mistaken. His age is only so much beyond
hers as to be an advantage, as to make his character and principles
fixed; and his disposition, I am well convinced, is exactly the very
one to make your sister happy. And his person, his manners, too, are
all in his favour. My partiality does not blind me: he certainly is
not so handsome as Willoughby; but, at the same time, there is
something much more pleasing in his countenance. There was always a
something, if you remember, in Willoughby's eyes at times, which I didnot like."
Elinor could not remember it; but her mother, without waiting
for her assent, continued:
"And his manners, the Colonel's manners are not only more pleasing
to me than Willoughby's ever were, but they are of a kind I well
know to be more solidly attaching to Marianne. Their gentleness, their
genuine attention to other people, and their manly unstudied
simplicity, is much more accordant with her real disposition than
the liveliness, often artificial, and often ill-timed of the other.
I am very sure myself, that had Willoughby turned out as really
amiable, as he has proved himself the contrary, Marianne would yet
never have been so happy with him as she will be with Colonel Brandon."
She paused. Her daughter could not quite agree with her; but her
dissent was not heard, and therefore gave no offence.
"At Delaford, she will be within an easy distance of me," added
Mrs. Dashwood, "even if I remain at Barton; and in all probability-
for I hear it is a large village- indeed there certainly must be
some small house or cottage close by, that would suit us quite as well
as our present situation."
Poor Elinor!- here was a new scheme for getting her to
Delaford!- but her spirit was stubborn.
"His fortune too!- for at my time of life, you know, every body
cares about that;- and though I neither know, nor desire to know, what
it really is, I am sure it must be a good one."
Here they were interrupted by the entrance of a third person;
and Elinor withdrew to think it all over in private, to wish success
to her friend, and yet, in wishing it, to feel a pang for Willoughby.
Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 44 Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 46