Marianne got up the next morning at her usual time; to every
enquiry replied that she was better, and tried to prove herself so, by
engaging in her accustomary
employments. But a day spent in sitting
shivering over the fire with a book in her hand, which she was
unable to read, or in lying, weary and languid
, on a sofa, did not
speak much in favour of her amendment; and when, at last, she went
early to bed, more and more indisposed, Colonel Brandon was only
astonished at her sister's composure, who, though attending and
nursing her the whole day, against Marianne inclination, and forcing
proper medicines on her at night, trusted, like Marianne, to the
certainty and efficacy of sleep, and felt no real alarm.
A very restless and feverish night, however, disappointed the
expectation of both; and when Marianne, after persisting in rising,
confessed herself unable to sit up, and returned voluntarily to her
bed, Elinor was very ready to adopt Mrs. Jennings's advice, of sending
for the Palmers' apothecary.
He came, examined his patient, and though encouraging Miss
Dashwood to expect that a very few days would restore her sister to
health, yet, by pronouncing her disorder to have a putrid tendency,
and allowing the word "infection" to pass his lips, gave instant alarm
to Mrs. Palmer, on her baby's account. Mrs. Jennings, who had been
inclined from the first to think Marianne's complaint more serious
than Elinor, now looked very grave on Mr. Harris's report, and
confirming Charlotte's fears and caution, urged the necessity of her
immediate removal with the infant; and Mr. Palmer, though treating
their apprehensions as idle, found the anxiety and importunity of
his wife too great to be withstood. Her departure, therefore, was
fixed on; and within an hour after Mr. Harris's arrival, she set
off, with her little boy and his nurse, for the house of a near
relation of Mr. Palmer's, who lived a few miles on the other side of
Bath; whither her husband promised, at her earnest entreaty, to join
her in a day or two; and whither she was almost equally urgent with
her mother to accompany her. Mrs. Jennings, however, with a kindness
of heart which made Elinor really love her, declared her resolution of
not stirring from Cleveland as long as Marianne remained ill, and of
endeavouring, by her own attentive care, to supply to her the place of
the mother she had taken her from; and Elinor found her, on every
occasion, a most willing and active helpmate, desirous to share in all
her fatigues, and often, by her better experience in nursing, of material use.
Poor Marianne, languid and low from the nature of her malady,
and feeling herself universally ill, could no longer hope that
to-morrow would find her recovered; and the idea of what to-morrow
would have produced, but for this unlucky illness, made every
ailment severe; for on that day they were to have begun their
journey home; and attended the whole way by a servant of Mrs.
Jennings, were to have taken their mother by surprise on the following
forenoon. The little she said was all in lamentation of this
inevitable delay; though Elinor tried to raise her spirits, and make
her believe, as she then really believed herself, that it would be a
very short one.
The next day produced little or no alteration in the state of
the patient; she certainly was not better, and, except that there
was no amendment, did not appear worse. Their party was now farther
reduced; for Mr. Palmer, though very unwilling to go, as well from
real humanity and good-nature as from a dislike of appearing to be
frightened away by his wife, was persuaded at last, by Colonel
Brandon, to perform his promise of following her; and while he was
preparing to go, Colonel Brandon himself, with a much greater
exertion, began to talk of going likewise. Here, however, the kindness
of Mrs. Jennings interposed most acceptably; for to send the Colonel
away while his love was in so much uneasiness on her sister's
account would be to deprive them both, she thought, of every
comfort; and, therefore, telling him at once that his stay at
Cleveland was necessary to herself that she should want him to play at
piquet of an evening, while Miss Dashwood was above with her sister,
&c., she urged him so strongly to remain, that he, who was
gratifying the first wish of his own heart by a compliance, could
not long even affect to demur; especially as Mrs. Jennings's
entreaty was warmly seconded by Mr. Palmer, who seemed to feel a
relief to himself in leaving behind him a person so well able to
assist or advise Miss Dashwood in any emergency.
Marianne was, of course, kept in ignorance of all these
arrangements. She knew not that she had been the means of sending
the owners of Cleveland away, in about seven days from the time of
their arrival. It gave her no surprise that she saw nothing of Mrs.
Palmer; and as it gave her likewise no concern, she never mentioned her name.
Two days passed away from the time of Mr. Palmer's departure;
and her situation continued, with little variation, the same. Mr.
Harris, who attended her every day, still talked boldly of a speedy
recovery; and Miss Dashwood was equally sanguine; but the
expectation of the others was by no means so cheerful. Mrs. Jennings
had determined, very early in the seizure, that Marianne would never
get over it; and Colonel Brandon, who was chiefly of use in
listening to Mrs. Jennings's forebodings, was not in a state of mind
to resist their influence. He tried to reason himself out of fears,
which the different judgment of the apothecary seemed to render
absurd; but the many hours of each day in which he was left entirely
alone were but too favourable for the admission of every melancholy
idea; and he could not expel from his mind the persuasion that he
should see Marianne no more.
On the morning of the third day, however, the gloomy anticipations
of both were almost done away; for when Mr. Harris arrived, he
declared his patient materially better. Her pulse was much stronger,
and every symptom more favourable than on the preceding visit. Elinor,
confirmed in every pleasant hope, was all cheerfulness; rejoicing
that, in her letters to her mother, she had pursued her own judgment
rather than her friend's, in making very light of the indisposition
which delayed them at Cleveland; and almost fixing on the time when
Marianne would be able to travel.
But the day did not close so auspiciously as it began. Towards the
evening Marianne became ill again, growing more heavy, restless, and
uncomfortable than before. Her sister, however, still sanguine, was
willing to attribute the change to nothing more than the fatigue of
having sat up to have her bed made; and carefully administering the
cordials prescribed, saw her, with satisfaction, sink at last into a
slumber, from which she expected the most beneficial effects. Her
sleep, though not so quiet as Elinor wished to see it, lasted a
considerable time; and anxious to observe the result of it herself,
she resolved to sit with her during the whole of it. Mrs. Jennings,
knowing nothing of any change in the patient, went unusually early
to bed; her maid, who was one of the principal nurses, was
recreating herself in the housekeeper's room, and Elinor remained
alone with Marianne.
The repose of the latter became more and more disturbed, and her
sister, who watched, with unremitting attention, her continual
change of posture, and heard the frequent but inarticulate sounds of
complaint which passed her lips, was almost wishing to rouse her
from so painful a slumber, when Marianne, suddenly awakened by some
accidental noise in the house, started hastily up, and, with
feverish wildness, cried out,-
"Is mamma coming?"
"Not yet," cried the other, concealing her terror, and assisting
Marianne to lie down again; "but she will be here, I hope, before it
is long. It is a great way, you know, from hence to Barton."
"But she must not go round by London," cried Marianne, in the same
hurried manner. "I shall never see her, if she goes by London."
Elinor perceived, with alarm, that she was not quite herself, and,
while attempting to soothe her, eagerly felt her pulse. It was lower
and quicker than ever. And Marianne, still talking wildly of mamma,
her alarm increased so rapidly, as to determine her on sending
instantly for Mr. Harris, and despatching a messenger to Barton for
her mother. To consult with Colonel Brandon on the best means of
effecting the latter was a thought which immediately followed the
resolution of its performance; and as soon she had rung up the maid to
take her place by her sister, she hastened down to the drawing-room,
where she knew he was generally to be found at a much later hour
than the present.
It was no time for hesitation. Her fears and her difficulties were
immediately before him. Her fears, he had, no courage, no
confidence, to attempt the removal of: he listened to them in silent
despondence; but her difficulties were instantly obviated; for, with a
readiness that seemed to speak the occasion, and the service
pre-arranged in his mind, he offered himself as the messenger who
should fetch Mrs. Dashwood. Elinor made no resistance that was not
easily overcome. She thanked him with brief, though fervent gratitude;
and while he went to hurry off his servant with a message to Mr.
Harris, and an order for post-horses directly, she wrote a few lines
to her mother.
The comfort of such a friend at that moment as Colonel Brandon,-
or such a companion for her mother,- how gratefully was it felt! a
companion whose judgment would guide, whose must relieve, and whose
friendship might soothe her! As far as the shock of such a summons
could be lessened to her, his presence, his manners, his assistance,
would lessen it.
He, meanwhile, whatever he might feel, acted with all the firmness
of a collected mind, made every necessary arrangement with the
utmost despatch, and calculated with exactness the time in which she
might look for his return. Not a moment was lost in delay of any kind.
The horses arrived, even before they were expected; and Colonel
Brandon only pressing her hand with a look of solemnity, and a few
words spoken too low to reach her ear, hurried into the carriage. It
was then about twelve o'clock, and she returned to her sister's
apartment to wait for the arrival of the apothecary, and to watch by
her the rest of the night. It was a night of almost equal suffering to
both. Hour after hour passed away in sleepless pain and delirium on
Marianne's side, and in the most cruel anxiety on Elinor's, before Mr.
Harris appeared. Her apprehensions once raised paid by their excess
for all her former security; and the servant who sat up with her,
for she would not allow Mrs. Jennings to be called, only tortured
her more, by hints of what her mistress had always thought.
Marianne's ideas were still, at intervals, fixed incoherently on
her mother; and whenever she mentioned her name it gave a pang to
the heart of poor Elinor, who, reproaching herself for having
trifled with so many days of illness, and wretched for some
immediate relief, fancied that all relief might soon be in vain,
that every thing had been delayed too long, and pictured to herself
her suffering mother arriving too late to see this darling child, or
to see her rational.
She was on the point of sending again for Mr. Harris, or if he
could not come, for some other advice, when the former- but not till
after 5 o'clock- arrived. His opinion, however, made some little
amends for his delay; for though acknowledging a very unexpected and
unpleasant alteration in his patient, he would not allow the danger to
be material, and talked of the relief which a fresh mode of
treatment must procure, with a confidence which, in a lesser degree,
was communicated to Elinor. He promised to call again in the course of
three or four hours; and left both the patient and her anxious
attendant more composed than he had found them.
With strong concern, and with many reproaches for not being called
to their aid, did Mrs. Jennings hear in the morning of what had
passed. Her former apprehensions, now with greater reason restored,
left her no doubt of the event; and though trying to speak comfort
to Elinor, her conviction of her sister's danger would not allow her
to offer the comfort of hope. Her heart was really grieved. The
rapid decay, the early death of a girl so young, so lovely as
Marianne, must have struck a less interested person with concern. On
Mrs. Jennings's compassion she had other claims. She had been for
three months her companion, was still under her care, and she was
known to have been greatly injured, and long unhappy. The distress
of her sister, too, particularly a favourite, was before her; and as
for their mother, when Mrs. Jennings considered that Marianne might
probably be to her what Charlotte was to herself, her sympathy in
her sufferings was very sincere.
Mr. Harris was punctual in his second visit; but he came to be
disappointed in his hopes of what the last would produce. His
medicines had failed; the fever was unabated; and Marianne only more
quiet- not more herself- remained in a heavy stupor. Elinor,
catching all, and more than all, his fear in a moment, proposed to
call in further advice. But he judged it unnecessary: he had still
something more to try, some more fresh application, of whose success
he was as confident as the last; and his visit concluded with
encouraging assurances which reached the ear but could not enter the
heart of Miss Dashwood. She was calm, except when she thought of her
mother; but she was almost hopeless; and in this state she continued
till noon, scarcely stirring from her sister's bed, her thoughts
wandering from one image of grief, one suffering friend to another;
and her spirits oppressed to the utmost by the conversation of Mrs.
Jennings, who scrupled not to attribute the severity and danger of
this attack to the many weeks of previous indisposition which
Marianne's disappointment had brought on. Elinor felt all the
reasonableness of the idea, and it gave fresh misery to her reflections.
About noon, however, she began- but with a caution- a dread of
disappointment which for some time kept her silent even to her friend-
to fancy, to hope she could perceive a slight amendment in her
sister's pulse: she waited, watched, and examined it again and
again; and at last, with an agitation more difficult to bury under
exterior calmness than all her foregoing distress, ventured to
communicate her hopes. Mrs. Jennings, though forced, on examination,
to acknowledge a temporary revival, tried to keep her young friend
from indulging a thought of its continuance; and Elinor, coming over
every injunction of distrust, told herself likewise not to hope. But
it was too late. Hope had already entered; and feeling all its anxious
flutter, she bent over her sister to watch- she hardly knew for
what. Half an hour passed away, and the favourable symptom yet blessed
her. Others even arose to confirm it. Her breath, her skin, her
lips, all flattered Elinor with signs of amendment; and Marianne fixed
her eyes on her with a rational, though languid, gaze. Anxiety and
hope now oppressed her in equal degrees, and left her no moment of
tranquillity till the arrival of Mr. Harris at four o'clock; when
his assurances, his felicitations on a recovery in her sister even
surpassing his expectation, gave her confidence, comfort, and tears of joy.
Marianne was in every respect materially better; and he declared
her entirely out of danger. Mrs. Jennings, perhaps satisfied with
the partial justification of her forebodings which had been found in
their late alarm, allowed herself to trust in his judgment, and
admitted, with unfeigned joy, and soon with unequivocal
cheerfulness, the probability of an entire recovery.
Elinor could not be cheerful. Her joy was of a different kind, and
led to any thing rather than to gaiety. Marianne, restored to life,
health, friends, and to her doting mother, was an idea to fill her
heart with sensations of exquisite comfort, and expand it in fervent
gratitude; but it lead to no outward demonstrations of joy, no
words, no smiles. All within Elinor's breast was satisfaction, silent and strong.
She continued by the side of her sister, with little intermission,
the whole afternoon; calming every fear, satisfying every enquiry of
her enfeebled spirits, supplying every succour, and watching almost
every look and every breath. The possibility of a relapse would, of
course, in some moments, occur to remind her of what anxiety was;
but when she saw, on her frequent and minute examination, that every
symptom of recovery continued, and saw Marianne at six o'clock sink
into a quiet, steady, and to all appearance comfortable, sleep, she
silenced every doubt.
The time was now drawing on when Colonel Brandon might be expected
back. At ten o'clock, she trusted, or at least not much later, her
mother would be relieved from the dreadful suspense in which she
must now be travelling towards them. The Colonel, too!- perhaps
scarcely less an object of pity! Oh! how slow was the progress of time
which yet kept them in ignorance!
At seven o'clock, leaving Marianne still sweetly asleep, she
joined Mrs. Jennings in the drawing-room to tea. Of breakfast she
had been kept by her fears, and of dinner by their sudden reverse,
from eating much; and the present refreshment, therefore, with such
feelings of content as she brought to it, was particularly welcome.
Mrs. Jennings would have persuaded her, at its conclusion, to take
some rest before her mother's arrival, and allow her to take her place
by Marianne; but Elinor had no sense of fatigue, no capability of
sleep at that moment about her, and she was not to be kept away from
her sister an unnecessary instant. Mrs. Jennings, therefore, attending
her up stairs into the sick chamber, to satisfy herself that all
continued right, left her there again to her charge and her
thoughts, and retired to her own room to write letters and sleep.
The night was cold and stormy. The wind roared round the house,
and the rain beat against the windows; but Elinor, all happiness
within, regarded it not. Marianne slept through every blast; and the
travellers, they had a rich reward in store, for every present inconvenience.
The clock struck eight. Had it been ten, Elinor would have been
convinced that at the moment she heard a carriage driving up to the
house; and so strong was the persuasion that she did, in spite of
the almost impossibility of their being already come, that she moved
into the adjoining dressing-closet and opened a window shutter, to
be satisfied of the truth. She instantly saw that her ears had not
deceived her. The flaring lamps of a carriage were immediately in
view. By their uncertain light she thought she could discern it to
be drawn by four horses; and this, while it told the excess of her
poor mother's alarm, gave some explanation to such unexpected rapidity.
Never in her life had Elinor found it so difficult to be calm as
at that moment. The knowledge of what her mother must be feeling as
the carriage stopped at the door- of her doubt- her dread- perhaps her
despair!- and of what she had to tell! with such knowledge it was
impossible to be calm. All that remained to be done was to be
speedy; and, therefore, staying only till she could leave Mrs.
Jennings's maid with her sister, she hurried down stairs.
The bustle in the vestibule, as she passed along an inner lobby,
assured her that they were already in the house. She rushed to the
drawing-room: she entered it- and saw only Willoughby.
Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 42 Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 44