Elinor blushed in spite of herself. Lucy bit her lip,
and looked angrily at her sister. A mutual silence took
place for some time. Lucy first put an end to it by saying
in a lower tone, though Marianne was then giving them
the powerful protection of a very magnificent concerto--
"I will honestly tell you of one scheme which has
lately come into my head, for bringing matters to bear;
indeed I am bound to let you into the secret, for you
are a party concerned. I dare say you have seen enough
of Edward to know that he would prefer the church to every
other profession; now my plan is that he should take
orders as soon as he can, and then through your interest,
which I am sure you would be kind enough to use out of
friendship for him, and I hope out of some regard to me,
your brother might be persuaded to give him Norland living;
which I understand is a very good one, and the present
incumbent not likely to live a great while. That would
be enough for us to marry upon, and we might trust to time
and chance for the rest."
"I should always be happy," replied Elinor, "to show
any mark of my esteem and friendship for Mr. Ferrars;
but do you not perceive that my interest on such an
occasion would be perfectly unnecessary? He is brother
to Mrs. John Dashwood--THAT must be recommendation enough
to her husband."
"But Mrs. John Dashwood would not much approve
of Edward's going into orders."
"Then I rather suspect that my interest would
do very little."
They were again silent for many minutes. At length
Lucy exclaimed with a deep sigh,
"I believe it would be the wisest way to put an end
to the business at once by dissolving the engagement.
We seem so beset with difficulties on every side,
that though it would make us miserable for a time,
we should be happier perhaps in the end. But you will
not give me your advice, Miss Dashwood?"
"No," answered Elinor, with a smile, which concealed
very agitated feelings, "on such a subject I certainly
will not. You know very well that my opinion would have
no weight with you, unless it were on the side of your wishes."
"Indeed you wrong me," replied Lucy, with great
solemnity; "I know nobody of whose judgment I think
so highly as I do of yours; and I do really believe,
that if you was to say to me, 'I advise you by all means
to put an end to your engagement with Edward Ferrars,
it will be more for the happiness of both of you,'
I should resolve upon doing it immediately."
Elinor blushed for the insincerity of Edward's
future wife, and replied, "This compliment would effectually
frighten me from giving any opinion on the subject
had I formed one. It raises my influence much too high;
the power of dividing two people so tenderly attached
is too much for an indifferent person."
"'Tis because you are an indifferent person," said Lucy,
with some pique, and laying a particular stress on those words,
"that your judgment might justly have such weight with me.
If you could be supposed to be biased in any respect
by your own feelings, your opinion would not be worth having."
Elinor thought it wisest to make no answer to this,
lest they might provoke each other to an unsuitable increase
of ease and unreserve; and was even partly determined
never to mention the subject again. Another pause
therefore of many minutes' duration, succeeded this speech,
and Lucy was still the first to end it.
"Shall you be in town this winter, Miss Dashwood?"
said she with all her accustomary complacency.
"I am sorry for that," returned the other,
while her eyes brightened at the information,
"it would have gave me such pleasure to meet you there!
But I dare say you will go for all that. To be sure,
your brother and sister will ask you to come to them."
"It will not be in my power to accept their invitation
if they do."
"How unlucky that is! I had quite depended upon
meeting you there. Anne and me are to go the latter end
of January to some relations who have been wanting us to
visit them these several years! But I only go for the sake
of seeing Edward. He will be there in February, otherwise
London would have no charms for me; I have not spirits for it."
Elinor was soon called to the card-table by the
conclusion of the first rubber, and the confidential
discourse of the two ladies was therefore at an end,
to which both of them submitted without any reluctance,
for nothing had been said on either side to make them
dislike each other less than they had done before;
and Elinor sat down to the card table with the melancholy
persuasion that Edward was not only without affection
for the person who was to be his wife; but that he had
not even the chance of being tolerably happy in marriage,
which sincere affection on HER side would have given,
for self-interest alone could induce a woman to keep a man
to an engagement, of which she seemed so thoroughly aware
that he was weary.
From this time the subject was never revived by Elinor,
and when entered on by Lucy, who seldom missed an opportunity
of introducing it, and was particularly careful to inform
her confidante, of her happiness whenever she received a letter
from Edward, it was treated by the former with calmness
and caution, and dismissed as soon as civility would allow;
for she felt such conversations to be an indulgence which
Lucy did not deserve, and which were dangerous to herself.
The visit of the Miss Steeles at Barton Park was
lengthened far beyond what the first invitation implied.
Their favour increased; they could not be spared;
Sir John would not hear of their going; and in spite
of their numerous and long arranged engagements in Exeter,
in spite of the absolute necessity of returning to fulfill
them immediately, which was in full force at the end
of every week, they were prevailed on to stay nearly two
months at the park, and to assist in the due celebration
of that festival which requires a more than ordinary
share of private balls and large dinners to proclaim
Though Mrs. Jennings was in the habit of spending a large
portion of the year at the houses of her children and friends,
she was not without a settled habitation of her own.
Since the death of her husband, who had traded with success
in a less elegant part of the town, she had resided every
winter in a house in one of the streets near Portman Square.
Towards this home, she began on the approach of January
to turn her thoughts, and thither she one day abruptly,
and very unexpectedly by them, asked the elder Misses
Dashwood to accompany her. Elinor, without observing
the varying complexion of her sister, and the animated look
which spoke no indifference to the plan, immediately gave
a grateful but absolute denial for both, in which she
believed herself to be speaking their united inclinations.
The reason alleged was their determined resolution
of not leaving their mother at that time of the year.
Mrs. Jennings received the refusal with some surprise,
and repeated her invitation immediately.
"Oh, Lord! I am sure your mother can spare you
very well, and I DO beg you will favour me with
your company, for I've quite set my heart upon it.
Don't fancy that you will be any inconvenience to me,
for I shan't put myself at all out of my way for you.
It will only be sending Betty by the coach, and I
hope I can afford THAT. We three shall be able to go
very well in my chaise; and when we are in town,
if you do not like to go wherever I do, well and good,
you may always go with one of my daughters. I am sure
your mother will not object to it; for I have had such
good luck in getting my own children off my hands that she
will think me a very fit person to have the charge of you;
and if I don't get one of you at least well married
before I have done with you, it shall not be my fault.
I shall speak a good word for you to all the young men,
you may depend upon it."
"I have a notion," said Sir John, "that Miss Marianne
would not object to such a scheme, if her elder sister
would come into it. It is very hard indeed that she
should not have a little pleasure, because Miss Dashwood
does not wish it. So I would advise you two, to set off
for town, when you are tired of Barton, without saying
a word to Miss Dashwood about it."
"Nay," cried Mrs. Jennings, "I am sure I shall be
monstrous glad of Miss Marianne's company, whether Miss
Dashwood will go or not, only the more the merrier say I,
and I thought it would be more comfortable for them to
be together; because, if they got tired of me, they might talk
to one another, and laugh at my old ways behind my back.
But one or the other, if not both of them, I must have.
Lord bless me! how do you think I can live poking by myself,
I who have been always used till this winter to have
Charlotte with me. Come, Miss Marianne, let us strike
hands upon the bargain, and if Miss Dashwood will change
her mind by and bye, why so much the better."
"I thank you, ma'am, sincerely thank you," said Marianne,
with warmth: "your invitation has insured my gratitude for ever,
and it would give me such happiness, yes, almost the greatest
happiness I am capable of, to be able to accept it.
But my mother, my dearest, kindest mother,--I feel the
justice of what Elinor has urged, and if she were to be
made less happy, less comfortable by our absence--Oh! no,
nothing should tempt me to leave her. It should not,
must not be a struggle."