"I am afraid it is but too true," said Marianne;
"but why should you boast of it?"
"I suspect," said Elinor, "that to avoid one kind
of affectation, Edward here falls into another. Because he
believes many people pretend to more admiration of the beauties
of nature than they really feel, and is disgusted with
such pretensions, he affects greater indifference and less
discrimination in viewing them himself than he possesses.
He is fastidious and will have an affectation of his own."
"It is very true," said Marianne, "that admiration
of landscape scenery is become a mere jargon.
Every body pretends to feel and tries to describe with
the taste and elegance of him who first defined what
picturesque beauty was. I detest jargon of every kind,
and sometimes I have kept my feelings to myself,
because I could find no language to describe them
in but what was worn and hackneyed out of all sense and meaning."
"I am convinced," said Edward, "that you really feel
all the delight in a fine prospect which you profess
to feel. But, in return, your sister must allow me
to feel no more than I profess. I like a fine prospect,
but not on picturesque principles. I do not like crooked,
twisted, blasted trees. I admire them much more if they
are tall, straight, and flourishing. I do not like ruined,
tattered cottages. I am not fond of nettles or thistles,
or heath blossoms. I have more pleasure in a snug
farm-house than a watch-tower--and a troop of tidy,
happy villages please me better than the finest banditti
in the world."
Marianne looked with amazement at Edward,
with compassion at her sister. Elinor only laughed.
The subject was continued no farther; and Marianne
remained thoughtfully silent, till a new object suddenly
engaged her attention. She was sitting by Edward, and
in taking his tea from Mrs. Dashwood, his hand passed
so directly before her, as to make a ring, with a plait
of hair in the centre, very conspicuous on one of his fingers.
"I never saw you wear a ring before, Edward," she cried.
"Is that Fanny's hair? I remember her promising to give
you some. But I should have thought her hair had been darker."
Marianne spoke inconsiderately what she really felt--
but when she saw how much she had pained Edward, her own
vexation at her want of thought could not be surpassed
by his. He coloured very deeply, and giving a momentary
glance at Elinor, replied, "Yes; it is my sister's hair.
The setting always casts a different shade on it,
Elinor had met his eye, and looked conscious likewise.
That the hair was her own, she instantaneously felt as
well satisfied as Marianne; the only difference in their
conclusions was, that what Marianne considered as a free
gift from her sister, Elinor was conscious must have been
procured by some theft or contrivance unknown to herself.
She was not in a humour, however, to regard it as an affront,
and affecting to take no notice of what passed,
by instantly talking of something else, she internally
resolved henceforward to catch every opportunity of eyeing
the hair and of satisfying herself, beyond all doubt,
that it was exactly the shade of her own.
Edward's embarrassment lasted some time, and it
ended in an absence of mind still more settled.
He was particularly grave the whole morning.
Marianne severely censured herself for what she had said;
but her own forgiveness might have been more speedy,
had she known how little offence it had given her sister.
Before the middle of the day, they were visited by Sir
John and Mrs. Jennings, who, having heard of the arrival
of a gentleman at the cottage, came to take a survey
of the guest. With the assistance of his mother-in-law,
Sir John was not long in discovering that the name of
Ferrars began with an F. and this prepared a future mine
of raillery against the devoted Elinor, which nothing but
the newness of their acquaintance with Edward could have
prevented from being immediately sprung. But, as it was,
she only learned, from some very significant looks, how far
their penetration, founded on Margaret's instructions, extended.
Sir John never came to the Dashwoods without either
inviting them to dine at the park the next day, or to drink
tea with them that evening. On the present occasion,
for the better entertainment of their visitor, towards
whose amusement he felt himself bound to contribute,
he wished to engage them for both.
"You MUST drink tea with us to night," said he,
"for we shall be quite alone--and tomorrow you must
absolutely dine with us, for we shall be a large party."
Mrs. Jennings enforced the necessity. "And who knows
but you may raise a dance," said she. "And that will
tempt YOU, Miss Marianne."
"A dance!" cried Marianne. "Impossible! Who is to dance?"
"Who! why yourselves, and the Careys, and Whitakers
to be sure.--What! you thought nobody could dance
because a certain person that shall be nameless is gone!"
"I wish with all my soul," cried Sir John,
"that Willoughby were among us again."
This, and Marianne's blushing, gave new suspicions
to Edward. "And who is Willoughby?" said he, in a low voice,
to Miss Dashwood, by whom he was sitting.
She gave him a brief reply. Marianne's countenance
was more communicative. Edward saw enough to comprehend,
not only the meaning of others, but such of Marianne's
expressions as had puzzled him before; and when their
visitors left them, he went immediately round her, and said,
in a whisper, "I have been guessing. Shall I tell you
"What do you mean?"
"Shall I tell you."
"Well then; I guess that Mr. Willoughby hunts."
Marianne was surprised and confused, yet she could
not help smiling at the quiet archness of his manner,
and after a moment's silence, said,
"Oh, Edward! How can you?--But the time will come
I hope...I am sure you will like him."
"I do not doubt it," replied he, rather astonished
at her earnestness and warmth; for had he not imagined it
to be a joke for the good of her acquaintance in general,
founded only on a something or a nothing between Mr. Willoughby
and herself, he would not have ventured to mention it.
Edward remained a week at the cottage; he was earnestly
pressed by Mrs. Dashwood to stay longer; but, as if he
were bent only on self-mortification, he seemed resolved
to be gone when his enjoyment among his friends was at
the height. His spirits, during the last two or three days,
though still very unequal, were greatly improved--he grew
more and more partial to the house and environs--never
spoke of going away without a sigh--declared his time
to be wholly disengaged--even doubted to what place he
should go when he left them--but still, go he must.
Never had any week passed so quickly--he could hardly
believe it to be gone. He said so repeatedly; other things
he said too, which marked the turn of his feelings and gave
the lie to his actions. He had no pleasure at Norland;
he detested being in town; but either to Norland or London,
he must go. He valued their kindness beyond any thing,
and his greatest happiness was in being with them.
Yet, he must leave them at the end of a week, in spite
of their wishes and his own, and without any restraint
on his time.
Elinor placed all that was astonishing in this
way of acting to his mother's account; and it was
happy for her that he had a mother whose character
was so imperfectly known to her, as to be the general
excuse for every thing strange on the part of her son.
Disappointed, however, and vexed as she was, and sometimes
displeased with his uncertain behaviour to herself,
she was very well disposed on the whole to regard his actions
with all the candid allowances and generous qualifications,
which had been rather more painfully extorted from her,
for Willoughby's service, by her mother. His want of spirits,
of openness, and of consistency, were most usually
attributed to his want of independence, and his better
knowledge of Mrs. Ferrars's disposition and designs.
The shortness of his visit, the steadiness of his purpose
in leaving them, originated in the same fettered inclination,
the same inevitable necessity of temporizing with his mother.
The old well-established grievance of duty against will,
parent against child, was the cause of all. She would have
been glad to know when these difficulties were to cease,
this opposition was to yield,--when Mrs. Ferrars would
be reformed, and her son be at liberty to be happy.
But from such vain wishes she was forced to turn for comfort
to the renewal of her confidence in Edward's affection,
to the remembrance of every mark of regard in look or word
which fell from him while at Barton, and above all
to that flattering proof of it which he constantly wore
round his finger.
"I think, Edward," said Mrs. Dashwood, as they were
at breakfast the last morning, "you would be a happier man
if you had any profession to engage your time and give
an interest to your plans and actions. Some inconvenience
to your friends, indeed, might result from it--you
would not be able to give them so much of your time.
But (with a smile) you would be materially benefited
in one particular at least--you would know where to go
when you left them."
"I do assure you," he replied, "that I have long
thought on this point, as you think now. It has been,
and is, and probably will always be a heavy misfortune
to me, that I have had no necessary business to engage me,
no profession to give me employment, or afford me any
thing like independence. But unfortunately my own nicety,
and the nicety of my friends, have made me what I am,
an idle, helpless being. We never could agree in our
choice of a profession. I always preferred the church,
as I still do. But that was not smart enough for my family.
They recommended the army. That was a great deal
too smart for me. The law was allowed to be genteel
enough; many young men, who had chambers in the Temple,
made a very good appearance in the first circles,
and drove about town in very knowing gigs. But I had
no inclination for the law, even in this less abstruse
study of it, which my family approved. As for the navy,
it had fashion on its side, but I was too old when the
subject was first started to enter it--and, at length,
as there was no necessity for my having any profession
at all, as I might be as dashing and expensive without
a red coat on my back as with one, idleness was pronounced
on the whole to be most advantageous and honourable,
and a young man of eighteen is not in general so earnestly
bent on being busy as to resist the solicitations of his
friends to do nothing. I was therefore entered at Oxford
and have been properly idle ever since."