"Well, Miss Dashwood," said Mrs. Jennings, sagacious
ly smiling, as
soon as the gentleman had withdrawn, "I do not ask you what the
Colonel has been saying to you; for though, upon my honour, I tried to
keep out of hearing, I could not help catching enough to understand
his business; and I assure you I never was better pleased in my
life, and I wish you joy of it with all my heart."
"Thank you, ma'am," said Elinor. "It is a matter of great joy to
me, and I feel the goodness of Colonel Brandon most sensibly. There
are not many men who would act as he has done. Few people who have
so compassionate a heart! I never was more astonished in my life."
"Lord! my dear, you are very modest. I an't the least astonished
at it in the world; for I have often thought, of late, there was
nothing more likely to happen."
"You judged from your knowledge of the Colonel's general
benevolence; but at least you could not forsee that the opportunity
would so very soon occur."
"Opportunity!" repeated Mrs. Jennings. "Oh, as to that, when a man
has once made up his mind to such a thing, somehow or other he will
soon find an opportunity. Well, my dear, I wish you joy of it again
and again; and if ever there was a happy couple in the world, I
think I shall soon know where to look for them."
"You mean to go to Delaford after them, I suppose," said Elinor,
with a faint smile.
"Aye, my dear, that I do, indeed; and as to the house being a
bad one, I do not know what the Colonel would be at, for it is as good
a one as ever I saw."
"He spoke of its being out of repair."
"Well, and whose fault is that? Why don't he repair it? Who
should do it but himself?"
They were interrupted by the servant's coming in to announce the
carriage being at the door; and Mrs. Jennings, immediately preparing
to go, said,-
"Well, my dear, I must be gone before I have had half my talk out.
But, however, we may have it all over in the evening; for we shall
be quite alone. I do not ask you to go with me, for I dare say your
mind is too full of the matter to care for company; and, besides,
you must long to tell your sister all about it."
Marianne had left the room before the conversation began.
"Certainly, ma'am, I shall tell Marianne of it; but I shall not
mention it at present to any body else."
"Oh, very well," said Mrs. Jennings, rather disappointed. "Then
you would not have me tell it to Lucy; for I think of going as far
as Holborn to-day."
"No, ma'am, not even Lucy, if you please. One day's delay will not
be very material; and, till I have written to Mr. Ferrars, I think
it ought not to be mentioned to any body else. I shall do that
directly. It is of importance that no time should be lost with him;
for he will of course have much to do relative to his ordination."
This speech at first puzzled Mrs. Jennings exceedingly. Why Mr.
Ferrars was to have been written to about it in such a hurry she could
not immediately comprehend. A few moments' reflection, however,
produced a very happy idea; and she exclaimed,-
"Oh, ho! I understand you. Mr. Ferrars is to be the man. Well,
so much the better for him. Ay, to be sure, he must be ordained in
readiness; and I am very glad to find things are so forward between
you. But, my dear, is not this rather out of character? Should not the
Colonel write himself? Sure, he is the proper person."
Elinor did not quite understand the beginning of Mrs. Jennings's
speech, neither did she think it worth enquiring into; and therefore
only replied to its conclusion.
"Colonel Brandon is so delicate a man, that he rather wished any
one to announce his intentions to Mr. Ferrars than himself."
"And so you are forced to do it. Well, that is an odd kind of
delicacy! However, I will not disturb you (seeing her preparing to
write). You know your own concerns best. So goodby, my dear. I have
not heard of any thing to please me so well since Charlotte was brought to bed."
And away she went; but returning again in a moment,-
"I have just been thinking of Betty's sister, my dear. I should be
very glad to get her so good a mistress. But whether she would do
for a lady's maid, I am sure I can't tell. She is an excellent
housemaid, and works very well at her needle. However, you will
think of all that at your leisure."
"Certainly, ma'am," replied Elinor, not hearing much of what she
said, and more anxious to be alone than to be mistress of the subject.
How she should begin,- how she should express herself in her
note to Edward,- was now all her concern. The particular circumstances
between them made a difficulty of that which to any other person would
have been the easiest thing in the world; but she equally feared to
say too much or too little, and sat deliberating over her paper,
with the pen in her band, till broken in on by the entrance of Edward himself.
He had met Mrs. Jennings at the door, in her way to the
carriage, as he came to leave his farewell card; and she, after
apologising for not returning herself, had obliged him to enter, by
saying that Miss Dashwood was above, and wanted to speak with him on
very particular business.
Elinor had just been congratulating herself, in the midst of her
perplexity, that however difficult it might be to express herself
properly by letter, it was at least preferable to giving the
information by word of mouth, when her visitor entered, to force her
upon this greatest exertion of all. Her astonishment and confusion were
very great on his so sudden appearance. She had not seen him before
since his engagement became public, and therefore not since his
knowing her to be acquainted with it; which, with the consciousness of
what she had been thinking of, and what she had to tell him, made
her feel particularly uncomfortable for some minutes. He, too, was
much distressed; and they sat down together in a most promising
state of embarrassment. Whether he had asked her pardon for his
intrusion on first coming into the room, he could not recollect;
but, determining to be on the safe side, he made his apology inform,
as soon as he could say any thing, after taking a chair.
"Mrs. Jennings told me," said he, "that you wished to speak with
me, at least I understood her so,- or I certainly should not have
intruded on you in such a manner; though, at the same time, I should
have been extremely sorry to leave London without seeing you and
your sister; especially as it will most likely be some time- it is not
probable that I should soon have the pleasure of meeting you again.
I go to Oxford to-morrow."
"You would not have gone, however," said Elinor, recovering
herself, and determined to get over what she so much dreaded as soon
as possible, "without receiving our good wishes, even if we had not
been able to give them in person. Mrs. Jennings was quite right in
what she said. I have something of consequence to inform you of, which
I was on the point of communicating by paper. I am charged with a most
agreeable office (breathing rather faster than usual as she spoke).
Colonel Brandon, who was here only ten minutes ago, has desired me
to say, that understanding you mean to take orders, he has great
pleasure in offering you the living of Delaford now just vacant, and
only wishes it were more valuable. Allow me to congratulate you on
having so respectable and well-judging a friend, and to join in his
wish that the living- it is about two hundred a year- were much more
considerable, and such as might better enable you to- as might be more
than a temporary accommodation to yourself- such, in short, as might
establish all your views of happiness."
What Edward felt, as he could not say it himself, it cannot be
expected that any one else should say it for him. He looked all the
astonishment which such unexpected, such unthought of information
could not fail of exciting; but he said only these two words,
"Yes," continued Elinor, gathering more resolution, as some of the
worst was over; "Colonel Brandon means it as a testimony of his
concern for what has lately passed,- for the cruel situation in
which the unjustifiable conduct of your family has placed you,- a
concern, which I am sure Marianne, myself, and all your friends,
must share; and, likewise, as a proof of his high esteem for your
general character, and his particular approbation of your behaviour on
the present occasion."
"Colonel Brandon give me a living! Can it be possible?"
"The unkindness of your own relations has made you astonished to
find friendship any where."
"No," replied be, with sudden consciousness, "not to find it in
you; for I cannot be ignorant that to you, to your goodness, I owe
it all. I feel it- I would express it if I could- but, as you well
know, I am no orator."
"You are very much mistaken. I do assure you that you owe it
entirely, at least almost entirely, to your own merit, and Colonel
Brandon's discernment of it. I have had no hand in it. I did not
even know, till I understood his design, that the living was vacant;
nor had it ever occurred to me that he might have had such a living in
his gift. As a friend of mine, of my family, he may, perhaps, indeed I
know he has, still greater pleasure in bestowing it; but, upon my
word, you owe nothing to my solicitation."
Truth obliged her to acknowledge some small share in the action;
but she was at the same time so unwilling to appear as the
benefactress of Edward, that she acknowledged it with hesitation;
which probably contributed to fix that suspicion in his mind which had
recently entered it. For a short time he sat deep in thought, after
Elinor had ceased to speak; at last, and as if it were rather an
effort, he said,-
"Colonel Brandon seems a man of great worth and respectability.
I have always heard him spoken of as such, and your brother I know
esteems him highly. He is undoubtedly a sensible man, and in his
manners perfectly the gentleman."
"Indeed," replied Elinor, "I believe that you will find him, on
farther acquaintance, all that you have heard him to be; and as you
will be such very near neighbours (for I understand the parsonage is
almost close to the mansion-house) it is particularly important that
he should be all this."
Edward made no answer; but when she had turned away her head, gave
her a look so serious, so earnest, so uncheerful, as seemed to say,
that he might hereafter wish the distance between the parsonage and
the mansion-house much greater.
"Colonel Brandon, I think, lodges in St. James Street," said he,
soon afterwards, rising from his chair.
Elinor told him the number of the house.
"I must hurry away then, to give him those thanks which you will
not allow me to give you; to assure him that he has made me a very- an
exceedingly happy man."
Elinor did not offer to detain him; and they parted, with a very
earnest assurance on her side of her unceasing good wishes for his
happiness in every change of situation that might befall him; on
his, with rather an attempt to return the same good will, than the
power of expressing it.
"When I see him again," said Elinor to herself, as the door shut
him out, "I shall see him the husband of Lucy."
And with this pleasing anticipation she sat down to reconsider the
past, recall the words, and endeavour to comprehend all the feelings
of Edward; and of course, to reflect on her own with discontent.
When Mrs. Jennings came home, though she returned from seeing
people whom she had never seen before, and of whom, therefore, she
must have a great deal to say, her mind was so much more occupied by
the important secret in her possession, than by any thing else, that
she reverted to it again as soon as Elinor appeared.
"Well, my dear," she cried, "I sent you up to the young man. Did
not I do right? And I suppose you had no great difficulty you did
not find him very unwilling to accept your proposal?"
"No, ma'am; that was not very likely."
"Well, and how soon will he be ready? For it seems all to depend upon that."
"Ready," said Elinor, "I know so little of these kind of forms,
that I can hardly even conjecture as to the time, or the preparation
necessary; but I suppose two or three months will complete his ordination."
"Two or three months!" cried Mrs. Jennings; "Lord! my dear, how
calmly you talk of it; and can the Colonel wait two or three months!
Lord bless me! I am sure it would put me quite out of patience! And
though one would be very glad to do a kindness to poor Mr. Ferrars,
I do think it is not worth while to wait two or three months for
him. Sure somebody else might be found that would do as well; somebody
that is in orders already."
"My dear ma'am," said Elinor, "what can you be thinking of? Why,
Colonel Brandon's only object is to be of use to Mr. Ferrars."
"Lord bless you, my dear! Sure you do not mean to persuade me that
the Colonel only marries you for the sake of giving ten guineas to Mr.Ferrars!"
The deception could not continue after this; and an explanation
immediately took place, by which both gained considerable amusement
for the moment, without any material loss of happiness to either;
for Mrs. Jennings only exchanged one form of delight for another,
and still without forfeiting her expectation of the first.
"Ay, ay, the parsonage is but a small one," said she, after the
first ebullition of surprise and satisfaction was over, "and very
likely may be out of repair; but to hear a man apologising, as I
thought, for a house that to my knowledge has five sitting rooms on
the ground-floor, and I think the housekeeper told me could make up
fifteen beds! and to you, too, that had been used to live in Barton
cottage! It seems quite ridiculous. But, my dear, we must touch up the
Colonel to do some thing to the parsonage, and make it comfortable for
them, before Lucy goes to it."
"But Colonel Brandon does not seem to have any idea of the
living's being enough to allow them to marry."
"The Colonel is a ninny, my dear; because he has two thousand a
year himself, he thinks that nobody else can marry on less. Take my
word for it, that, if I am alive, I shall be paying a visit at
Delaford Parsonage before Michaelmas; and I am sure I shan't go if
Lucy an't there."
Elinor was quite of her opinion, as to the probability of their
not waiting for any thing more.
Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 39 Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 41