Elinor now found the difference between the expectation of an
unpleasant event, however certain the mind may be told to consider it,
itself. She now found that, in spite of herself, she had
always admitted a hope, while Edward remained single, that something
would occur to prevent his marrying Lucy; that some resolution of
his own, some mediation
of friends, or some more eligible
opportunity of establishment for the lady, would arise to assist the
happiness of all. But he was now married; and she condemned her
heart for the lurking flattery
which so much heightened the pain of
the intelligence. That he should be married soon, before (as she imagined) he
could be in orders, and consequently before he could be in
possession of the living, surprised her a little at first; but she
soon saw how likely it was that Lucy, in her self-provident
her haste to secure him, should overlook every thing but the risk of
delay. They were married,- married in town,- and now hastening down to
her uncle's. What had Edward felt on being within four miles from
Barton,- on seeing her mother's servant,- on hearing Lucy's message!
They would soon, she supposed, be settled at Delaford:-
Delaford, that place in which so much conspired to give her an
interest; which she wished to be acquainted with, and yet desired to
avoid. She saw them in an instant in their parsonage-house: saw in
Lucy the active, contriving manager; uniting at once a desire of smart
appearance with the utmost frugality, and ashamed to be suspected of
half her economical practices; pursuing her own interest in every
thought; courting the favour of Colonel Brandon, of Mrs. Jennings, and
of every wealthy friend. In Edward, she knew not what she saw, nor
what she wished to see. Happy or unhappy, nothing pleased her: she
turned away her head from every sketch of him.
Elinor flattered herself that some one of their connections in
London would write to them to announce the event, and give farther
particulars; but day after day passed off, and brought no letter, no
tidings. Though uncertain that any one were to blame, she found
fault with every absent friend. They were all thoughtless or indolent.
"When do you write to Colonel Brandon, ma'am?" was an enquiry
which sprung from the impatience of her mind to have something going on.
"I wrote to him, my love, last week, and rather expect to see than
to hear from him again. I earnestly pressed his coming to us, and
should not be surprised to see him walk in to-day, or to-morrow, or any day."
This was gaining something,- something to look forward to. Colonel
Brandon must have some information to give.
Scarcely had she so determined it, when the figure of a man on
horseback drew her eyes to the window. He stopped at their gate. It
was a gentleman,- it was Colonel Brandon himself. Now she could hear
more, and she trembled in expectation of it. But it was not Colonel
Brandon; neither his air nor his height. Were it possible, she must
say it must be Edward. She looked again. He had just dismounted: she
could not be mistaken,- it was Edward. She moved away, and sat down.
"He comes from Mr. Pratt's purposely to see us. I will be calm,- I
will be mistress of myself."
In a moment she perceived that the others were likewise aware of
the mistake. She saw her mother and Marianne change colour,- saw
them look at herself, and whisper a few sentences to each other. She
would have given the world to be able to speak, and to make them
understand that she hoped no coolness, no slight, would appear in
their behaviour to him; but she had no utterance, and was obliged to
leave all to their own discretion.
Not a syllable passed aloud. They all waited in silence for the
appearance of their visitor. His footsteps were heard along the gravel
path: in a moment he was in the passage, and in another he was before them.
His countenance, as he entered the room, was not too happy, even
for Elinor. His complexion was white with agitation; and he looked
as if fearful of his reception, and conscious that he merited no
kind one. Mrs. Dashwood, however, conforming, as she trusted, to the
wishes of that daughter, by whom she then meant, in the warmth of
her heart, to be guided in every thing, met with a look of forced
complacency, gave him her hand, and wished him joy.
He coloured, and stammered out an unintelligible reply. Elinor's
lips had moved with her mother's; and, when the moment of action was
over, she wished that she had shaken hands with him too. But it was
then too late; and, with a countenance meaning to be open, she sat
down again, and talked of the weather.
Marianne had retreated as much as possible out of sight, to
conceal her distress; and Margaret, understanding some part, but not
the whole of the case, thought it incumbent on her to be dignified,
and therefore took a seat as far from him as she could, and maintained
a strict silence.
When Elinor had ceased to rejoice in the dryness of the season,
a very awful pause took place. It was put an end to by Mrs.
Dashwood, who felt obliged to hope that he had left Mrs. Ferrars
very well. In a hurried manner, he replied in the affirmative.
Elinor resolving to exert herself, though fearing the sound of her
own voice, now said,-
"Is Mrs. Ferrars at Longstaple?"
"At Longstaple!" he replied, with an air of surprise. "No; my
mother is in town."
"I meant," said Elinor, taking up some work from the table, "to
enquire for Mrs. Edward Ferrars."
She dared not look up; but her mother and Marianne both turned
their eyes on him. He coloured, seemed perplexed, looked doubtingly,
and, after some hesitation, said,-
"Perhaps you mean my brother: you mean Mrs.- Mrs. Robert Ferrars."
"Mrs. Robert Ferrars!" was repeated by Marianne and her mother
in an accent of the utmost amazement; and though Elinor could not
speak, even her eyes were fixed on him with the same impatient wonder.
He rose from his seat, and walked to the window, apparently from not
knowing what to do; took up a pair of scissors that lay there; and,
while spoiling both them and their sheath by cutting the latter to
pieces as he spoke, said, in a hurried voice,-
"Perhaps you do not know: you may not have heard that my brother
is lately married to- to the youngest- to Miss Lucy Steele."
His words were echoed with unspeakable astonishment by all but
Elinor, who sat, with her head leaning over her work, in a state of
such agitation as made her hardly know where she was.
"Yes," said he: "they were married last week, and are now at Dawlish."
Elinor could sit it no longer. She almost ran out of the room;
and, as soon as the door was closed, burst into tears of joy, which at
first she thought would never cease. Edward, who had till then
looked any where, rather than at her, saw her away, and perhaps saw,
or even heard, her emotion; for immediately afterwards he fell into
a reverie, which no remarks, no enquiries, no affectionate address
of Mrs. Dashwood could penetrate; and at last, without saying a
word, left the room, and walked out towards the village, leaving the
others in the greatest astonishment and perplexity on a change in
his situation so wonderful and so sudden,- a perplexity which they had
no means of lessening but by their own conjectures.
Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 47 Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 49